Downward Spiral of Discourse

For the longest time, I always looked at Facebook as a relatively safe space for people to post. Sure, you’d have arguments break out on walls from time to time, but I felt that overall, people would generally respect each other on Facebook for the simple reason that they weren’t anonymous. Because their actual picture and personality were attached to those comments, I thought it would keep the worst tendencies reined in. (Compared to anonymous comments on newspaper articles, for example.)

Lately, it’s felt like that’s fundamentally changed. I’m on some local Facebook groups, and it seems to me that some people have just given up on any pretense of being polite. They’re mean and nasty, leaving biting comments at the drop of a hat, confronting strangers with ultimatums and accusations. In some cases, it feels like they almost take pride in their combativeness. It’s very discouraging and depressing.

I understand that there are many different things to argue about these days. Politics, COVID, religion, current events, and more. But I don’t understand the draw to go online and confront people about things you disagree with, whether those people are strangers or acquaintances. It’s to the point with some of these posters that I recognize their name and know they’re just going to be jerks when they post. And clearly they’re okay with that?

I don’t know. It feels to me like we had something that was working well for a while. Social media was bringing people together from across the country and different ways of life. But now we’re to the point that the unifying effect has turned into more of a divisive one, where people have found Their People and are now doing their best (in some cases) to attack people they disagree with.

My desire to keep blogging and keep putting my thoughts out there is dwindling. When it felt like my thoughts might make a difference, it was motivating. When it feels like my thoughts will be read by people who agree with them and ignored or attacked by people who don’t, then why would I want to keep putting them out there?

I’m not saying I’m going to give up on blogging (though certainly I haven’t been blogging as much, since I’ve been doing so much work on this blasted kitchen). I still enjoy it, though I can certainly now see a future where it’s just not worth it anymore. (Not to mention the fact that the interaction I get on my posts has gotten less and less, as fewer people are willing to engage, and Facebook has become progressively stingier about who gets to see my posts.)

I definitely feel the need for some sort of disruption to the social media environment. The current trajectory is untenable, and I just hope something else comes along to fix or replace it. I’m not looking for a different platform. I don’t need one that’s more conservative or more liberal. I’m looking for something that hasn’t been invented yet. Something that somehow plays to social media’s strengths while somehow avoiding the weaknesses.

The problem is, if we live in a world where people are already fine being rude not just to strangers, but to friends or family, then I don’t know that any technology platform can fix that. How do we turn the tide on something like that?

There’s your encouraging thought for the day . . .


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