(Pic source: https://www.atulhost.com/6-biggest-problems-social-media)
There is no escaping it.
But is there something we can do?
Well there has much been written on perils of social media, umpteen research have now shown the ill effects of spending too much time on it, concerns of privacy of data has hit the headlines recently, and at the same time the user numbers are increasing, new platforms are emerging and the growth curve of social media is on the rise.
What do you want?
The first question that one should ask from one’s social media choice is what one wants out of it. Is it news you want to follow, music, art, politics, literature, whatever it is, there are pages, handles which will be of your interest and a wise thing to do is to restrict oneself to those.
But, it is often not the case. We want to keep abreast with happenings around the world; we want to see what a particular leader, a head of the state, has to say, for these things have bearing on our life and even if it does not one generally likes to be well informed.
And then there is the professor, your relatives, colleagues at work, friends, whom one follows, because that is how social media is a microcosm of the society we live in.
There starts the problem.
The TL (timeline) then starts filling up with stuff beyond our areas of interest.
In such a scenario one is conflicted when one sees that the colleague from work, otherwise a sane guy, is a bigot on Twitter. One is conflicted when one sees the professor peddling fake news.
What to do then?
Unfollow and sanitize your TL?
Ideally yes, but practically tough to do.
One can rather adopt this path. (I have done this on few occasions and plan to do it more aggressively in due course of time).
Check for your own bias
Check for your own bias
Disagreement, not toeing the same line, ideological differences, should not mean drastic measures. One should first check for ones own bias. Difficult, yet possible.
Quality of argument
One should give the person one is disagreeing with some merit by critically analyzing the quality of their argument. If the points they make, makes sense, even if one is diabolically opposed to it.
However we all have strict no go areas. Bigotry, racism, derogatory comments, whatever is ones absolute no-no area must be clear. Anyone crossing that should not be given benefit of doubt.
Talk, if possible
In the example of the professor who peddles fake news that I cited, it might be the case that he is unaware of how to check veracity, to not be impulsive in posting, etc. If possible talk to him. Same with friends and colleagues.
Do not feed trolls
This golden rule is very important. The troll is not just that handle with 3 followers and 10K tweets. It is the same professor, the same colleague that we are talking about. Avoid engaging with them on a public platform. It is pointless.
Don’t make a scene (if that is your way)
It might be difficult to unfollow that professor or colleague. Use mute option or any such feature where their posts do not appear on your TL in case you don’t want them to come ask you why you unfollowed them (lot of people do, and ugly RL scene ensues)
If you are clear about your choices, you give a damn to what people might think, you have a healthy RL relation with people you engage with on social media, just dump the ones you feel are spreading negativity on your TL.
It is all easier said than done. When the mere ‘like’ of one you follow appear prominently on your TL, when news handles themselves indulge in all sorts of whataboutery, misinformation and bias, it is difficult to sanitize ones TL. Yet one can do it to a large extent.
For people who have been on the scene since a long time, they might have figured a way of doing it right, but for many who make new entry, for the purpose of having fun, to learn things, to engage meaningfully, the toxicity of social media can generally cause much negativity in their lives.
In the end it is imperative to understand that duels on social media, one-upmanship, belittling others, being caustic, is not going to change anything. You are the world and the world is within you. Improvisation and enriching of your being by learning an art form, reading books, spending time with family, watching movies, etc, is primary. Social media, much down the list.