I think many of us are still trying to process all that has occurred over the past few months. The world has become divided in ways I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and that has had a huge impact on online social dynamics. How we choose to proceed from here is going to determine the direction this new era will take us.
I choose to be hopeful about our future. While I am also admittedly fearful, I have faith that there is enough good out there to balance out the bad, and no matter what differences we have in opinion or belief, we’ll need to work together if we want the good to have a fighting chance. The bad has succeeded in its divide-and-conquer tactics long enough, don’t you think?
I believe both positivity and negativity are infectious. I also think too many have been programmed to spring to both the defensive and the offensive for too quickly, which fosters negative thoughts and actions. I think back to when I worked in collections, and how everyone I called hated me because they immediately viewed me as the antagonist. It didn’t matter that the call wasn’t personal—I was just doing my job—and it didn’t matter how polite and professional I was; most people turned into dicks when I disclosed the purpose behind my calls.
Think of how much we could all build one another up if we took that kind of attitude to social media, what we could accomplish through discourse that remained respectful regardless of our disagreements? If our thought processes are so different, maybe we could find a way to use that to everyone’s advantage. As it stands, we’ve allowed it to remain a means of keeping us at war with each other. We’ve allowed it… but we don’t have to.
We already have enough weighing us all down: The majority of American adults have accrued ridiculous amounts of debt; Generation X and older are finding favorite musicians and actors dropping like flies of aging-related illnesses (David Bowie was my absolute favorite musician); we are fostering a culture of escapism and anti-intellectualism; gangs and drugs are everywhere; and the relations between several influential nations are growing shakier by the day.
I’ve made my political opinions clear, but I have engaged very little on the matter on social media. I have done what I can to avoid the crossfire between all those horrible words people have been slinging incessantly at one another. There’s a better way to communicate in these social arenas. We need to relearn how to use them for good. Remember the days when Facebook—hell, even MySpace—had an air of community to it? We need to ask ourselves two important questions: How did we get to this point, and Is it possible to reclaim the fellowship social media once offered?
I can’t claim to be a saint. I’ve made my share of online faux pas, but I’ve learned from them. It’s easy to make a social blunder when you barely have a face to a name, and that screen dividing us can make even spats between family members ridiculously heated. Why don’t we spend that energy figuring out what we each can do to make this world a better place. Forget what Joe Schmo thinks, or what he thinks about your strongest beliefs. To quote the ever-Zen Dude: “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
So, for 2017, how about we focus on making the year great—together?