Facebook, Facetime, and Following

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day Four: Facebook, Facetime, and Following

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One of my absolute best friends from childhood is getting married next month in my home state one week before I head home for the holiday season. I can’t justify going home back to back and I can’t get off work. I’m devastated to be missing it. One of my best friends from high school got married in the spring and I had classes and couldn’t make it. Seeing their wedding photos, though, and getting glimpses of their day to day lives through Facebook and Instagram has been an immense joy. I’m poor and occupied and I can’t take up all the physical space in this life that I so desperately wish I could. Social media allows me to stay in touch when and how I can and I’m exceptionally grateful for that. I get to see my nephew grow up right before my eyes through Snapchat and FaceTime from 1,000 miles away. It would crush me to miss that.

I’ve also had full on verbal brawls with former friends, family members, and complete strangers in Facebook comment threads and private direct messages. I once got over 500 death threats because of a political post I made on Tumblr. I’ve unfollowed my fair share of humans because I can’t stand even seeing the face of some of these people I fundamentally disagree with on every single issue imaginable. I’ve called people racists and rape sympathizers online. If you get anything from this series, it should be that I’m one of the worst people you know, that I’m a massive hypocrite, and that most of my thoughts are mostly for myself to hear that I post publicly on the off chance someone else is even remotely as messed up as me.

I love social media and I hate it. Many say that social media has led to more increased bullying of strangers. That it’s made us lonelier and more jealous of our friends.

And yet, we’ve been yelling at retail workers since we’ve had storefronts. We’ve gotten into stranger’s faces in picket lines or outside health clinics. “The grass is always greener” has been traced back to the 1500’s. Social media has not created new issues in compassion, it has simply created a new, digital landscape for our old habits to manifest.

It also gives us unprecedented access to the other, to see how people across the world think. To see how issues manifest in different communities that don’t look like ours. Are we taking advantage of the access to one another for good or for evil? Are we building a global community or breaking it down? I think if we changed our perspective and began to value the access social media gave us, we’d have no choice but to be empathetic online. To be curious about the other. To be honest about the good along with bad.

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