Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Silence of the LAMs

I've been thinking a lot about social media since the one year anniversary of M3. When writing the retrospective, there was large sections of complaining I had to remove in order to keep the tone of the piece positive. I have shifted much of my attention away from writing and toward promotions and editing. I spend a lot of time on Facebook discussing and gathering topics we will write and discuss each week. I'm generally a positive person, but some days test my resolve to remain optimistic. It was on one of these days that I ran across Anything for Likes. It was posted in the Facebook group by Darnell Anthony. I usually don't find the material he talked about that funny, but it really was exactly what I needed to see. I've been taking social media way too seriously. It was about time I take a breath and start poking fun at it.


When we started the M3 Facebook group we wanted it to focus on discussion. It wasn't always possible to get people to talk to each other. Some of the most common posts are the "good morning" posts. It was just a way to send out a group message and talk to random people, but our group was about discussing issues and it took a while for people to understand that.  Usually the groups I'm a member of have selfies in a dozen different positions of hotness groups designed to get the poster attention. I do like eye candy, and I'm not a hater, but when we scroll down the group I don't want to see a bunch of "Look At Me" posts. It wasn't easy to get to a place where we could delete these posts from our group without losing every member.

I often have to deal with very ignorant people online. I can't ever predict what the next online argument will be about. Sometimes it's just our inability to empathize with different ways of seeing the world. Then there are times it's some asshole being antagonistic just to get attention. I never know what buttons a person has. A simple question becomes an argument. I usually play the peacemaker in our online community. For some reason people's bullshit rarely provokes a reaction out of me. It sometime exhausts me though. Stupid people can test my patience for sure. I've seen people online ask questions so dumb that I wonder how they have managed to survive in this world for so long. I suppose everyone is on their own journey and I have to learn to not take everything so personal or as a waste of my time.

When I decided to repost a funny video a friend posted of his partner playing in the snow I thought it would get a few laughs. Little did I know I'd be getting assholes calling him names on the Facebook page. It tested me that day. I really did want to go off on this random person, but to what end? It's not like any of these people will hear anything you say.  I often run into people who have very narrow opinions and I have to take a step back and try not to take it personally. It's not my mission to make people believe the truth. I've learned to take a step back and remind myself that I don't have a stake in people believe.

It occurred to me that I'm not a very social person, but somehow on social media I can work a room with the best of them. I suppose there are many socially awkward people like myself online. I am convinced that the Internet is a magnet for us social misfits. I have trouble reading social cues in real life, but the Internet is a social equalizer. I may not be able to read non-verbal cues, but I'm pretty good at reading text or studying a photograph for clues about personality and life circumstances. Social behavior has always been difficult to understand for me. My poor eyesight makes it impossible for me to read faces from across a room and at this point even if I were to regain my eyesight I would lack the experience from a lifetime of social interactions to be able to read people. It's something that most people take for granted, in the virtual world of social media I'm almost popular or at least appear to be normal. But then I have to ask myself, if my creepy ass appears to be normal online, what sort of creepers am I attracting to myself by being so public on the Internet?

Part of being a good friend, co-worker, or community member is knowing how to cooperate with others. This is not a skill necessary to be popular on the Internet. Many of the people I run into are argumentative, rude, and aggressive for no apparent reason. I heard it called keyboard courage. It comes from an apparent lack of social consequences. If you lose a friend due to your intolerable behavior, you can simply block him and never speak to him again. If you become blackballed in one group, you can simply create your own group or a new profile. Being rejected by someone you barely know doesn't nearly have the same consequences as having that same interaction in person. There's no social pressure to be nice to one another online, and because of this, it has become a magnet for social outcasts and assholes.

I believe that some social media use is fine. It becomes problematic when we are lacking balance in our lives and are constantly checking our notifications to see what people are saying about us.  It seems like the energy that I'm putting into writing a comment could be going into the blog, but at the same time, what is the point of writing something no one will read? So I keep going with the social media even when people report your pictures on Instagram and Facebook it seems like it's worth it to me. We just have to delete the selfies and hope there are enough people left who can hold a conversation. And when I can take the time I will poke fun at the ridiculous ways people behave online.





MALCOLM TRAVERS
Male Media Mind