Approximately eight weeks ago, I decided to get off Facebook. With the exception of wishing a few happy birthdays and posting my blog posts, which is actually done automatically, I no longer look at my news feed on Facebook. I realized that it was actually affecting me mentally. I have a very low tolerance for stupidity and Facebook is loaded with it; especially during 2020.
I think anyone would say that we wish we could get a mulligan on 2020. It has been nonstop uncertainty, despair, turmoil and everyone has an opinion and everyone is an expert. I refuse to take my medical or any other advice from someone on Facebook who has no qualifications except for doing their research on YouTube. Some of the most ludicrous ideas and posts were showing up in my feed and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I found myself being angry all the time and was baited into arguments with people that will never change their opinion or ideology so what was the point. I was expending emotional energy on people that, candidly, I couldn’t care less what they believe. I am not saying I myself am not open to constructive debate or even altering my worldview through rational discussion. The reality is this was maybe 1% of what I was seeing on Facebook.
I’ll give you a perfect example of the stupidity that I was seeing. There was one post that showed up in my feed from a gentleman, we’ll call him JR, that actually compared what we are going through with Covid-19 to the Holocaust. I am not Jewish but I was so offended by this blatant stupidity that I had to immediately unfriendly this person. There was no point in even engaging this person but I did. He made some kind of comment like he would be the guy without a mask on walking down the wrong way down the isle at the supermarket. Basically, an inconsiderate human being with a ridiculous outlook on the current situation.
From the political propaganda to the ridiculous, unfounded conspiracy theories, Facebook is rife with intellectual head cheese. One thing I noticed is people would post ideas and theories without actually doing the research on these ideas, which only made themselves look like uneducated trolls with no common sense. They read it on another post, or saw it on YouTube, and just believed it to be true and posted it. From the far left to the far right, there was a battleground forming and that was on the internet. I found that people were not only posting the most ridiculous dribble but there was so much hate, it was actually having a physical effect on me. I found I was spending hours a day reading posts, arguing with people, and generally developing an angst that was emotionally exhausting.
I was speaking to a friend today who put it very succinctly; what we are going through right now is a social experiment. On Facebook you have friends and families tearing each other’s throats out because they don’t agree with them politically. I have experienced great angst because of my political views. I consider myself somewhere in the middle of the road; I am very conservative when it comes to size of government and fiscal matters but I am quite liberal when it comes to the environment and social justice. As my friend said, it is a very lonely position. I am not a traditional Republican or Democrat so I do not have a loyalty to either party. What should be able to happen is people from opposite sides of the isle should be able to have constructive debate without getting their feelings hurt. One of my dearest friends is much more the right then I am but we can talk peaceably about the issues. Another one of my dear friends is about as far left as you can get and we too can have a conversation without angst.
In the past, I have always thought Facebook was a good thing. It allowed me to keep in touch with my friends, my family, and keep up with local events. For years that is how I used it; merely as a tool but I think the current political environment combined with all of the other events occurring fundamentally changed it. It became a place for political positioning, conspiracy theories, ignorance, racism, and hate. Now Facebook has put into place a fact-checking algorithm that supposedly weeds out many of the unfounded conspiracy theories but that is only one small part of the problem.
For social media to go through a fundamental change for the positive it requires a change in those engaging in social media. We must realize that everyone has a right to express themselves but it does not excuse expressing unfounded or hatful rhetoric. Our nation has become so divided and social media seems to be the place where this all comes to the surface.
I still believe that social media platforms, like Facebook, still have a positive place in society. I am not claiming it is all bad. It is somewhere businesses can get their products marketed and families can stay connected, especially during a time when most of us are social distancing and haven’t seen friends or family for months. After all, I do use social media to promote my blog so I can’t completely say it’s useless. The problem is I just grew weary of it all. No different than I have grown weary of the news. Now I watch about 30 minutes of local news at 5:30 in the morning and I’ll watch about 30 minutes to an hour of BBC news in the afternoon so I can at least stay informed on what is happening in the world. I was at a point where I could not emotionally deal with everything that was going on; the killings, the hate, the ignorance, the racism, and all of the internet experts out there that barely finished high school or junior college. I had no idea how many friends I had that were experts in political science, immunology, etc. I do have many friends who are physicians and have degrees in political science and I take their opinions and advice much more readily than I do many others. I am currently working on my fourth degree yet i am not going to pretend that i am an expert in anything other than the fields that I have studied or worked, no matter how many YouTube videos I may have watched.
If you are on Facebook, and you probably are, think about your motives for being on there. My wife, for example, uses it to promote her Scouts BSA Troop and their activities and her side business of products that she sells at the local farmer’s market. Ask yourself, how would I feel if someone said this to me. We have an opportunity to be kind to each other, to show love, to be encouraging, especially when some people are suffering so much. There is so much tragedy in the world right now, we have an opportunity to make a change in society in a real and impactful way. Use your story to help others, be positive, do a little research before you post something and learn some patience.
If you are sequestered at home because you are high risk or you are on disability or you have lost your job, I would encourage you to not add to your discouragement by allowing yourself to get caught up in the political and idiotic musings of the ignorant few. Look for ways to encourage others and ways to encourage yourself. This too will end and when it does what kind of person will you have become?