Social Media and Social Issues

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I will do my best to keep this pretty generic, but many of my readers will know what I am talking about. Every week we seem to have a new cause, issue, or topic we are told to be enraged about. People who do not fall for the hype are categorized as heartless, stupid, and then typically labeled as one of the many -isms that are thrown around so much that they start to lose meaning.

I do not doubt that many people on social media have good intentions. I am sure that, in many cases, they actually do feel outraged or heartbroken over different issues. But, I want to submit a few points for your consideration.

How much good does your “share” actually bring about?

You see a news article shared by someone you follow on social media, it tugs at your heart and you share it. You feel pretty good about yourself. You have done your part to show that you care, that you are up-to-date and well informed. And…that’s all.

Sharing a news article is something that most people on your list will see the headline and keep scrolling. Perhaps you share it with a dose of your opinion and maybe a snarky comment. Sharing an opinion on a subject is nothing. When you share your opinion on social media, about half of your friends will agree, and half will not. Smartass comments don’t change minds, they encourage entrenchment on the other side.

And that is about as far as it goes. Social media posts have very little shelf-life, so the point of sharing a news article is pretty weak. It might feel like you are doing some good, but it is more like patting yourself on the back than helping. If you really want to bring about any change, you need to listen and learn how to compromise.

Is your “share” factual?

How often do you take the time to fact check before you share that article/photo/rant? Contrast this question with another, how often do you share something after reading no further than a headline with which you agree?

Time after time, people from your average Joe to your “celebrity journalists” share falsehoods on social media. The more famous people do this and will get thousands of people to share the lie/misleading information/half-truth/falsehood. Then when the claims are shown to be false, they might issue a retraction, and if they do retract, the retraction will get shared by a dozen people. Letting people know that you shared something that was incorrect is probably embarrassing, but there is also no good feeling to go with the act of sharing that you were wrong. If you are sharing misinformation, you are adding to the problems that we are facing.

In the information age, there is simply no excuse for not taking a moment to fact check.

Are you guilty of oversimplifying the issue?

Some of the issues that have brought about societal faux rage have been complete and utter nonsense. You know what I’m talking about. Some have also been genuine problems that need to be addressed. Setting aside the nonsense issues, the problems that are actual problems are complicated. Grossly oversimplifying an issue and presenting an equally oversimplified answer is dishonest. While you might feel good about yourself, you have done no real good. Complex problems don’t have simple solutions. And placing phrases like common sense in front of a false “solution” to the problem does not make it applicable or useful.

Are you just being contrary?

Quite often, it seems that people on both sides of a given topic are staking out their position out of sheer contrariness. The idea is that someone on the other side of the issue has to be a blithering idiot, therefore, the opposite extreme position is the appropriate answer. This is just divisive and patently unnecessary.

Side A: Some bad people need to be in prison.

Side B: No way! Everyone needs to be *RELEASED* from prison! Idiot!

Side A: This bacon is pretty good!

Side B: You disgust me! No one should eat meat! EVER!!! You’re gonna DIE from eating like that!

Side A: Well, nothing lasts forever.

Side B: You freaking idiot!!! EVERYTHING lasts forever!!! 

This behavior of claiming the extreme opposite is juvenile. It prevents any communication from taking place, and without communication, there will be no problem-solving.

Do you really care?

This question sounds accusatory, but it is not intended that way. Many people really do care, but many are simply following the lead of the loudest voices on their side of the aisle. If you really do care, step back and look at your actions to see if you are doing anything more than smiling at yourself in the mirror and saying how good you look. Are you helping, or hurting? Or are you simply posturing?

In closing, I would ask you to think about these questions honestly. It wouldn’t hurt to tone down the hate. Be nice to each other.

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