Tuesday, March 29, 2016

5 Problems with Social Media

I haven't been writing much. I'm sure you've figured that out. I'm going to try and do The Writer Circle's 30 day writing challenge for the month of April, hope that it gets me back into the groove.

We'll see.

I'm already not following instructions because I am starting this when it is still March.

The first prompt asks you to discuss the five problems with social media. As if there are only five. Ha!

I'll just go ahead and write about the five first issues that come to mind, though this is not in any way going to be an exhaustive list.

1. It allows for false information to be disseminated quickly.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves about the internet in general, but social media tends to be the biggest offender. You've all seen it happen, I'm sure.

Someone shares a link to a satire site, not realizing that it's satire...they share it with some tagline about outrage or disgust or whatever, it quickly spreads like wildfire. Someone finds a meme that someone else created for whatever reason they created it, then shares said meme without bothering to do any research about the accuracy of the meme. Someone just makes up statistics or numbers or whatever, and posts it...it gets shared.

The thing with all of this false information is that it seems to get spread around mostly for one of two reasons. Either the false information is somehow threatening to someone, represents something they are scared of or it bolsters their views on something. Ebola is a fabulous example of how quickly misinformation spreads online. People were legitimately afraid of the outbreak, fed by the media's role in disseminating incorrect information, and social media was blowing up with that fear. The presidential election is another perfect example of this false information being shared. I could literally spend all day fact checking memes people share to support their candidate. LITERALLY ALL DAY.

2. Some people are completely different online than in real life.

Not everyone is like this, of course. I try pretty damned hard to be the same person here as I am in real life, for better or worse.

There are, though, a significant number of people who are totally different online than they are in real life. It can be quite revealing, and not always in a good way. People also seem to forget that Facebook has the stalker box, where anyone online at any given time can see what you are liking and commenting on, even if you wouldn't actually post it on your own timeline.

Yeah, I see what you just did right there. Mmmhmmm.

Also, I've been more and more disappointed in people lately. Sigh.

3. Tone and sarcasm are often impossible to interpret.

I speak fluent sarcasm, and almost every day someone out there online takes what I post literally when it isn't necessarily meant that way. One of the most difficult things about any form of online communication is that it's hard to communicate tone and sarcasm, unless of course people know what to expect from you. The problem with this issue isn't a hard one to figure out, and it's that people can quickly misinterpret your meaning and take things out of context.

4. Everyone seems to take everything personally.

This is something I've written about quite a bit in the past already, but something that keeps happening every single day. Though there might certainly be times when someone else out there in the internet land is passive aggressively referring to you in their posts and updates and memes, chances are it has nothing to do with you. I promise. The vast majority of what anyone writes or posts or shares isn't about you. It's about them.

I mean, if the boot fits....

But seriously, though, people have got to stop taking things personally. One of my personal pet peeves in this department is when I make a broad societal level statement about something that irritates me...someone will almost always come along and get huffy with me as if I am personally calling them out online.

Nope. Wasn't about you.

5. Everything online lives forever. All of it. Yes, even that thing you deleted.

When I'm wearing my Mom hat, one of the things I say the most frequently is that you should consider everything that happens online to be permanent. All of it. Even the things in those apps that supposedly vanish immediately. Even the pictures that went to the cloud and you thought you deleted. No one understands the cloud. Even the tweet that you removed and the profile pictures that you banished. Even the comments on that page that you are pretty sure no one follows.

All of it.

You should consider it all permanent because it just might be, even if you think it's gone, because there might be someone out there, some data mining warehouse, some enemy who is stalking your shit online, some future boss out there who just can't wait to dig up the goods on you.

So, be careful. Be diligent. Be intentional.

And if you're going to be reckless, make sure all the phones in the room are confiscated first. FFS.

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