Much is being said about the media in our world today. Much of it is being said by the media—often pointing fingers at others and their perspectives. Social media especially is a form of decentralized communication that is open to all manner of comments. Some think it has gained too much influence, some think it is the only media that deserves a listen, some use it to tout their own positions and discredit others.
All of that begs the question: To whom should one listen? Are there outlets that are more dependable than others? Are all platforms created equal? Are some platforms simply created to skew in one direction or another? (The answer is ‘Yes.’) Are the media giants gaining too much power over the people?
My arrival at social media was late by most standards. I didn’t get on FaceBook until the summer of 2017. I was part of a mission team in Alaska, and the best way to keep connected with those folks upon returning home was on social media. My awkwardness with social media was evident. I had to have lots of things explained to me by younger people more versed in the art. I had to have someone else help create and monitor my settings to avoid getting more than I asked for. I had to learn how to post and, perhaps more importantly, what to post.
It was something of a learning curve. I often tell people that my learning curve needs guardrails on both sides! But I have learned and my friends list has grown. I have made and kept connection with people from all over. Friendships forged in the mission field have flourished and continue. Old friends from earlier stages of my life have shown up and we have had delightful reunions both online and in person. I have received gracious comments from strangers who do not know me but have seen my posts about the things that matter to me. It’s been a good journey is so many ways.
But there is also a down side. I doubt that I’m the only one, but I have begun to see some negatives to the constantly available and continually changing stream that comes at me though social media.
One downside is that I will sometimes find myself scrolling—mindlessly! I will look up and see that I have frittered away precious time when I could have been more productive doing something else. Being right there at my fingertips makes it easy to slip into a session of scrolling rather than the tasks that I have already told myself need to be done. If there is a more ready source of distraction, apart from television, then I’m not sure what it is. I can not count the hours that have gone by unnoticed and unattended. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this! Please!
Another downside is that sometimes the content leaves lots to be desired. Quick quips are fine but hardly affect my days. Cat pictures are amusing for a moment, but how many cat pics does one need to get through the day? The so-called ‘tests’ that are supposed to reveal something about the person hold no interest to me at all. In essence, there is a whole lot of content that seems to me to be pretty vapid.
Or worse, there is content that is outright offensive. Crude content is there to generate ‘clicks.’ ‘Click bait’ is a new term that did not exist in my earlier days. I wonder sometimes if people are considering the effects of some posts. Do they talk this way all the time? Would they say that to strangers they do not know? Would their parents or family or friends approve? Posting can be a dangerous activity in its own way.
I am also leery of the political nature of so many posts. Communication is always political to some extent, but I am alarmed at the negative tone in so many posts that remind me of political ads in our day. How much damage can a post do? How can we sway the one who holds a differing view? How can we just make fun of those on the other side? Social media is a powerful tool that will shape our politics going forward—indeed, it already has!
Those political ads bring me to another issue I’m having these days—why am I seeing ads for political races that are not even in my district or even my state? I have no chance to participate in some of these races, and yet they want to sway my view. Political advertising is a bane to my existence. Tell me where you stand on issues and how you believe you would approach them—do not tell me how awful the other candidate is!
So I’ve decided that I’m taking a FaceBook break—a social media fast—for the month of November. I believe that I’ll miss a lot of din and distraction that would not be healthy for me. I’ll not be seeing more stuff about the mid-term elections. I will have a quieter mindset when I get ready for a week’s silent retreat at a monastery. I will be more thankful when we gather as a family to celebrate the better things in life. All of that without a constant, never-ending stream of this and that!
Some have asked what I’ll do in the meantime. I think I”m going to be doing my own media project: Face(in a)Book. I’ll be doing more reading—since I have a never-ending reading list. I’ll be doing more writing since I’ve got books in my head that need to see the light of day. I’ll capture a lot of time conversing with others who have researched (honestly), reflected (thoughtfully), and written (expressively). Wish me well for my Face(in a)Book month ahead.