Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplas
I’m sure you’ve noticed the pattern online.
Here’s how it goes.
Someone states their opinion publicly. Suddenly, insults start flying. Mudslinging ensues. If the topic is hot enough, cancel culture engages.
Yuck. It’s not pretty. It’s often really messy.
And it doesn’t really matter what the topic is. Politics. Religion. Sports. Movies. Food. Wearing masks. You name it.
Say something once, and you can have people calling for you to be fired. For sponsors to pull your funding. Cancel culture has already engaged, and it’s too late.
Context? It’s often not needed. You said that one thing at one time. That’s all we need to know. Now I must say that racism and hate are totally unacceptable. But don’t confuse those with just disagreeing with someone.
But make no mistake, Social media has transformed into something that flat out is not very social. It’s more like an exercise in people being outraged over anything and everything.
We all have opinions and thoughts. And we’ve gotten used to sharing them on social media. But now it’s gotten to the point where you might not want to express them. Why?
Most people don’t want to hear your opinion — they want to hear THEIR opinion coming from your mouth.
It’s always been this way on social media to an extent — we all have preferences and biases — but it’s gotten a lot worse. Assumptions are at an all-time high too. We’re used to labeling people as something in just one social media post.
A Quick Example
For example, let’s say you post a photo like this that says, “Enjoying this yummy milkshake from Chic-Fil-A!”
Photo by Author
Just posting this simple photo and many people will start to label you in a certain way. You clearly vote in a certain way. You obviously behave in a certain way in your bedroom too. All because of a simple photo of a milkshake.
Disagree with this politician or political party? Clearly, you are either a genius or an idiot. One party is great because ____. Another party is terrible because _____.
Dislike this popular movie/tv show/genre of music? Clearly you either have great taste or terrible taste.
I’m not saying everyone jumps to these extreme conclusions all the time, but there is definitely a large group that behaves this way. Don’t believe me? Visit the YouTube Comments section of a video. Or the Facebook feed in a large group. Or just visit Twitter at any point in time.
You can be a fan of someone’s work for years and years, but when the creator expresses a personal opinion you don’t like, you suddenly hate the creator. But for another creator who has a history of doing something wrong — even illegal things— this individual gets a free pass. Why? It’s often because that other individual is not on social media. Out of sight, out of mind.
The Key Thing We Often Do Not Consider
We then allow our recent emotions to feed our opinions. When something has just happened to you, you are going to be more upset than when you give yourself some time to think it over.
Perhaps many people are not thinking things over. We reply in the blink of an eye. We share the first thought that comes to mind. It’s kind of like that person you know who isn’t listening — he’s just waiting to talk
ESPN has used this approach quite extensively for the past five years or so. Is (fill in the blank) team the greatest of all time? Is (fill in the blank player) the greatest of all time?
These conversations have no end. There is no real point. It’s basically a big distraction to get engagement from people and to create content. And it’s all based on something that just happened recently. It’s a “hot topic” so to speak.
How To Avoid Some Of These Problems
Photo by Bruce Mars on Upsplash
One of the greatest gifts in the world is simply choosing not to engage.
But I know sometimes that’s not possible. You said something, and someone responds to you. The conversation is quickly escalating before your eyes. Well, a great gift is to type your reply — that statement you really want to say — and then ask a simple question.
Ask yourself, “Where’s the win?”
And if there isn’t a clear win, just delete your response. Or maybe you don’t even have to type a response. Just simply move on.
Or you could even say, “I haven’t thought of that. That’s an interesting point.” Even if you don’t agree with that other person, saying it’s an interesting point often disarms the conversation form escalating further.
Yesterday, I posted on a Facebook thread and got back a very rude and condescending response. I was ready to reply. I had a reply all typed out.
Then I asked, “Where’s the win?”
It became clear to me that there was no win. I wasn’t going to change this person’s mind no matter what. So, I deleted my response and simply moved on.
I’m not saying it is easy to not reply or throw your thoughts back at the individual. It takes practice. Get up, walk away. Create some space or you’re just going to be part of the problem yourself. Some people will say things online that they would never even say to someone in public.
Rarely — if ever does anyone change their mind or opinion because of a comment on social media.
You know what changes opinions? Real interaction. Relationships. Personal experiences. Learning from others. Listening to the stories of others.
This massive shift actually starts with you. You decide how you engage with others. Maybe it means blocking some people or simply making the choice not to participate in conversations. Or participating in conversations once you’ve become informed. Kneejerk responses don’t help conversations move forward. Maybe you will decide to not use social media for a while or delete an app altogether.
Whatever you decide, I encourage you to have real conversations, not online rants or arguments that only spread negativity. Life is too short to waste time and energy arguing over things through unproductive online bickering.