The more time I spend online, the more I find myself less and less willing to believe things. There is so much misinformation being spread around—innocently and intentionally. Is that image genuine, or was it digitally altered? Is that reality in progress, or are those people performing? So much of what is presented as candid is actually choreographed. So much of what is reported as news is a distorted or exaggerated truth—or completely fictional.
I don’t want to be naïve, but I also don’t want to be an impermeable wall. I don’t like being overly skeptical. I want to be moved by heartwarming stories without wondering if someone is trying to manipulate me. I want to be impressed by feats of kindness, strength, or intelligence without worrying that it’s all an illusion staged to deceive.
If I’m not skeptical, then I’m annoyed. To get through my Facebook news feed I must regularly wade through mass marketing muck that reeks of spam. My experience with social media is that it’s becoming decreasingly social. So much of it now is derivative or vaguely commercial. I miss the days when Facebook felt more personal than viral. I joined for an online connection to real people, not corporate advertisements, shallow trends, or pseudo-news.
I’d like to see more insights into the minds and lives of the people I know instead of more memes or some stranger’s mildly amusing video. I want to see you, your loved ones, and your vacations, celebrations, and milestones. I’m not trudging through any “upload all” image dumps, but I’d love to see a carefully curated selection of photos. I’d rather read what’s really on your mind than see another shared article (unless it really changed your life, really made you think/laugh/cry, or is in some way genuinely special). And if you are quoting someone else’s words (even if just by way of introduction), please remember to give the author credit or at least use quotation marks. If another person wrote them, they shouldn’t look like your words.
If I’m not skeptical or annoyed, then I’m shrouded in apathy. My Facebook feed is full of emphatic entreaties. Watch this video; it will make you laugh or cry. Read this article; it will fill you with ire. Look at these pictures; isn’t the world beautiful/crazy/cruel? Visit this website; this is stuff you absolutely need to know. Basically what they all boil down to is the following: You must click here; it’s very, very important! And more often than not, no it isn’t.
I do it too. I admit it. I regularly link to this very blog hoping my Facebook friends will read it. And I’d love to go viral. I’m that kind of hypocrite. It’s the imperatives, not the invitations, that I mind the most. Especially distasteful to me are the ones with a manipulative approach. Make this your profile picture if you’re a decent human being. Change your status update to the text below if you don’t want to appear uncaring. Join my cause or my rant unless you’re an uninformed fool. I have all the facts, so you should think and feel the way I do. It all reminds me of those chain letters that used to be popular when I was a kid. I’ve never been one to do something just because others are doing it. And if it starts to smell like peer pressure, then I get even more stubbornly resistant.
I don’t come to Facebook to bait, debate, or attack. I like to keep my social media friendlier than that. I can’t—I don’t want to—keep up with all the viral items and trends. And viral is a good word them, because they’ve begun to feel like diseases infecting my time—little digital pathogens of acute procrastination. With so many of them clamoring for more and more of my attention, I feel compelled to defend myself and ignore them. Apathy is my vaccine—a means a self-protection.
I’m not anti social media. It has benevolent qualities too. I just prefer to keep my social media civil, less viral, and more personal. Facebook isn’t perfect, and it isn’t entirely bad. It gives me cause to complain. It regularly compels me to rant. I’ve even considered quitting in the past—and I’m sure I’ll consider it again in the future. But right now the good (even if only marginally) outweighs the bad. It’s still an opportunity to catch up on the thoughts and lives of my friends. And sometimes I’m even in the mood to see that viral video of _______ [fill in the blank].