I have grown to hate social media more and more every day. My general distaste for the product, no matter the format, isn’t how they function or how much of my time it takes up at work, but rather what it has turned people into.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The Internet is the single best and worst thing that has ever happened to humanity,” and I honestly couldn’t tell you who said it.
The Internet and social media have connected us with people we really don’t want to talk with all that often, anyway, but all kidding aside, it has become a wealth of knowledge, it has helped overthrow dictators, and I love the fact that it allows me to stream NBA games at will.
Unfortunately, I have seen sides of people I love that I never would have seen without social media. In other words, I think this wonderful resource is turning us into hateful people, who need to be outraged about nearly everything in the world, instead of just what should cause outrage.
There are literately thousands of examples of the “outrage police” on social media, going after someone’s job or shaming someone for saying something they didn’t like. Gone are the days of being civil to one another in person and accepting that we all come from different backgrounds with different experiences and those backgrounds and experiences shape our opinions, which should be largely different from one another.
Recently, a certain Oklahoma quarterback was publicly shamed for something he said as a kid. I don’t care for what he had to say, but at the same time, I can understand that he was a kid and was probably feeling things out and unfortunately, had the situation of growing up in the Internet age, something that I was luckily spared. God only knows what could become of my life if I could have posted what I was thinking at the age of 14 to a public forum.
I would wager people wouldn’t think it was always smart or good hearted, and I am willing to bet most of the folks angry at a certain Oklahoma quarterback would find things they said in their youth that aren’t all that tasteful, either. Gone are the days of context, where we can reason that what someone said years ago doesn’t make that person today.
Over the last year, our company has gone through a lot of changes, adding papers and saying goodbye to another through a sale. We have said goodbye to longtime employees, due to retirement, and we are all experiencing a new reality, due to those changes.
I have printed my cell phone number in newspapers, given my e-mail out to thousands and have never shied away from talking with anyone in our coverage area.
Most of our employees, especially the journalists, are very similar. They are happy to talk with people about coverage in the newspaper, story ideas, and even things they write on the opinion page or on their social media that might cause a stir. They are professionals, and I appreciate them for being able to speak to those who sometimes don’t like what they wrote or how they wrote it, being a news story or a column on the opinion page.
A new thing for me has been people contacting me about what our employees say, telling me they don’t like it. In seven years at the helm of this company, I haven’t had that one hit me too often, but this past week, I have been contacted three times about something someone in our company wrote.
Never had that person approached the person who wrote the opinion they didn’t care for. They came directly to me, the owner of the company. For what? Retribution? To get the person fired? I am not really sure, to be honest. I assume they wanted me to say something and get the person in trouble, regardless.
I think this mentality comes from social media, to bring this all to a head. I think we are used to being outraged and ticked off about things that used to roll off our shoulders. I yearn for a day where we can read something we disagree with, give a thought-out response, and be friends later, or simply disregard it as something that was said years ago, as is the case with the example I mentioned above.
In high school, I took four years of classes that prepared me for civil exchange. We were taught to debate both sides of an argument, and sometimes you didn’t even agree with what you were arguing, but you did so to win the round. Debate is something I would love to see every person take, as it taught me to hear what someone is saying, thoughtfully argue a point with facts, and shake hands afterwards.
I see the opposite on social media, and now it is slowly but surely leaking into real life, where the consequences are far worse.
Maybe one day we will work through this anger in our hearts and move past it. I fear that day will never come, but hopefully, one day, in person, we can get a beverage and discuss things civilly and be friends afterwards. That would sure be neat.