I kind of hate social media.
As of this writing, my online presence comes in three main flavors: Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. Tonight I’m going to talk about how I use these platforms, what I think of them, and where I think social media is going.
If you’re short on time and you’d otherwise skip this post, please read my Overall Thoughts at the end.
I created my Facebook account at the behest of some of my coworkers in 2007 or 2008. At first, I used Facebook mostly to play Facebook games. I played Mafia Wars and Farmville and a couple of other time wasters. I also wrote mini blog entries and slowly started connecting with distant friends and family. In the beginning, Facebook was fine.
Over time, I stopped playing games on the platform. Facebook developed new features, most of which I thought were okay. The facial recognition seemed a little bit scary but it didn’t ruffle my feathers too much. The in-app chat seemed pretty cool. I was still digging it even as some of my friends and family began demonstrating levels of crazy I didn’t know they possessed.
I started to really dislike Facebook when they changed the chat to something that you needed to install on your phone. You can still use chat in the browser, but the phone apps were needlessly changed to prompt you to install Facebook Messenger. I will never install Facebook messenger, ever. It wants to take over other parts of the phone. I don’t trust it. I don’t want it.
With the 2016 election, any remaining good feelings I had towards Facebook evaporated. They sold out to the Russians. That sentence sounds like hyperbolic conspiracy theory bullshit, but it’s true. Facebook knowingly allowed Russia to buy advertisements that spread lies and propaganda. There is no moral compass guiding Facebook. The platform is an expression of the worst parts of capitalism.
I still post to Facebook from time to time, but my presence there is greatly diminished. There are people I only see through Facebook, so it’s a necessary evil. Someday, I’d like to shutdown my Facebook account and leave it behind forever. In the mean time, I’m still connected. Chances are, you found this blog entry via my Facebook feed.
I created my Twitter account in August, 2011. That makes it sound like I’ve been using Twitter for 7 years, but I’ve really only been using it for a little more than a year. Before that, I followed a few people but I didn’t really engage with anyone. Scrolling through my Twitter feed, all I saw were bots and advertisements.
Last year, I started to find other writers to follow. I posted my NaNoWriMo progress and somehow, #WriteFightGIFClub found me. That’s such a strange name for a writing community, but it’s one of the best communities I’ve ever been a part of. If I hadn’t joined them, I probably wouldn’t be using Twitter much.
I’ve talked about #WriteFightGIFClub before. It’s an island surrounded by a sea of anger and vitriol. We don’t talk about politics. We participate in writing sprints, we post funny pictures and cute animals, and we provide words of encouragement. There is real friendship to be found in the community. It contains lots of good people, some of which I was fortunate enough to meet in New York City a couple of months ago.
Let’s get back to talking about the platform itself. As awesome as #WriteFightGIFClub is, Twitter sucks. There is so much anger and political polarization, and Twitter’s administration seems to have chosen the side that supports the Alt-Right and Neo-Nazis. While angry people on the Left are getting timed out or their accounts suspended, others on the Right are getting away with some pretty heinous things.
I’m sure that some people on the Right are getting their accounts banned, too. But too many are not.
To put a finer point on this, some Alt-Right assholes used Twitter to get James Gunn fired. Most of the blame should be laid at the feet of Disney, but the Alt-Right guys are still active on Twitter. The ones responsible for killing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 got away with it.
Meanwhile, one of the members of #WriteFightGIFClub recently had her account suspended. She was gone for over a week and no one from Twitter told her what she’d done wrong. She wasn’t given any way to appeal the decision. She just got booted from the platform for no reason, as far as we can tell.
She’s back now. Again, they didn’t tell her what happened or that her account had been restored. She opened up the app yesterday and discovered on her own that she could once again use it. No one knows why they suspended her account, and we’ll never know.
Chuck Wendig had his account suspended for a while. Same with John Scalzi. Pat Thomlinson had his account suspended and as far as I know, it’s still disabled.
Imagine having built up a following on Twitter as a writer over the course of several years, only to have it all taken away at the whim of a faceless Alt-Right sympathizer working for the platform. Chuck and John and Pat are vocal Left supporters, but my other friend? I’ve watched her feed. She’s sweet and apolitical.
I want to like Twitter but it feels like that platform is sick or broken. I don’t want to lose #WriteFightGIFClub, but I’d kind of like to see Twitter die.
My blog is not social media. This is a place where I write essays every once in awhile. I’m sharing my writer’s journey with the world here, but this place has low visibility. It’s never going to be like Chuck Wendig’s blog, TerribleMinds.com. He’s created a platform that gets views, a place other people want to write guest posts for.
That’s not really what this blog is about. This blog is a place for me to work out my thoughts on some issues and share what’s happened in my life as I continue to try and become a professional writer. That will always have a fairly narrow appeal.
The phenomena of social media is a realization of the potential of The Internet. The world is made smaller and our cultures are connected through social media. Global communication, a community that knows no borders, is made possible through social media. The human species could grow so much by sharing ideas and cultures and celebrating our differences.
And yet, people are still people. I want to celebrate social media and the potential for us to grow closer as a society, but that’s just not how humans work.
There are stories of women that enter into or stay in bad relationships with men, telling their friends that everything will be okay. They can change him. He’ll change if she just gives him another chance.
People don’t change. Individuals do. A person can repent, turn over a new leaf, and become a saint. Individuals can change but it’s uncommon. If you’re the person staying in a bad relationship, pinning your hopes on the transformation of your significant other, there’s something you should know. That kind of change comes from within and if you’re staying with them, you’re probably enabling them to remain as they are.
People, on the other hand, don’t seem to change at all. For as bad as we may think the political landscape is today, there are newspaper articles written a century ago that you’d swear were written yesterday.
I went down a rabbit hole for a little while, but I think I can bring this full circle. In a hundred years, when people are looking through old Internet archives at various Twitter messages, they’re going to find the same kind of content that they see in their futuristic social media equivalent. Nothing changes because people are the shitty boyfriends of the world. We hurt each other. We take advantage of each other. And we never change, no matter how many chances we’re given.
Wow, that got kind of dark. Indulge me a moment more as I’d like to end this post on a slightly more hopeful note.
I believe that individuals can change. When they do, it’s through the transformative power of love. Not external love, though we all need that. The love that changes an individual is love that comes from within.
When you care enough for someone or something, you’re tapping into a universal constant that has the power to reshape the world. When you truly love someone, you’ll grow towards them. You’ll become stronger so that you can support them. Love will open your eyes and change your mind and force you to see things you never would have seen otherwise.
As much as I may have bashed on social media tonight, and as much as I’ve expressed a certain hopelessness when it comes to the human race, I do believe that we all have the potential to become better through love. So if you want to change the world and make it a better place, start there. Because even if your love doesn’t change the world, it will change you. Sometimes, that’s the same thing.