Bringing Humanity to Social Media

Social media sucks.

And I say that realizing I will be sharing this post on three social media platforms and hoping that you have found my website through someone who shared it on their social media platforms.

But honestly, when it comes to communicating, social media is just about the worst way to go about it.

Now I have fun on my facebook and twitter feeds. I laugh at the funny memes and enjoy looking at the photos my friends post. I often engage in delightful conversations (especially when I make fun of certain pop stars whom I cannot stand).

So social media can be fun. It’s the serious stuff that can be stressful.

Last summer, I decided to use my social media presence to speak up about some of the more controversial news stories of the day. I shared stories, retweeted comments, and posted pictures that drove a lot of people crazy. And there were other times I decided not to share anything regarding a certain story and people got on my case about that, too!

It is tough deciding what to say and what not to say; when to speak and when to be silent. And then there is the issue of time: I don’t want to be on my social media platforms all day every day. I am glad that some people have decided to be on top of the news and reactions and can respond immediately throughout the day.

But I am not willing to make that commitment.

So I find this truth at work: When I try to take a stand, someone is going to be mad. When I decide to be silent, someone is going to be mad.

And I am finally at a place in my life where I am okay with that. I have finally realized that I am not going to win any arguments on social media. And here is my secret for why that’s okay: I don’t want to win arguments.

It’s that simple. I am not trying to outwit, out-debate, out-intellectualize, or outsmart anyone. I truly want to build relationships and create spaces for conversation. So I might post something that angers you. And you may want to respond. And it might start to turn into an argument.

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And that is why social media sucks.

But it doesn’t have to.

I am grateful for several people who have called me and asked to have face to face conversations. Or private message ones. Or phone calls. Some way that we can talk person to person and respect one another. I have had several people reach out to me and say, “Can we meet and talk?” I have conversations about many different topics. Each time, the other person has been nervous to bring the topic up. I have been nervous listening to them.

And every single time, I have walked away from those conversations feeling closer to that person. Every. Single. Time.

Because here is what is true: no matter how close we are to the person behind the twitter handle or screen name, on our devices we are tempted to treat them not as a person. Instead, they are an enemy to be defeated, an impressionable mind to be convinced, an idiot that needs to be mocked.

But when I sit with that person face to face, they are human. They are my relative. They are my mentor. They are my friend.

Social media can be a good tool to start conversations. And in those conversations, there may be some disagreement. Remember: that is okay! If you start to feel your blood pressure rising when you are engaging someone online, reach out to the person in some other venue. If they are local, invite them to have coffee somewhere. If you don’t know them in real life, see if you can send them a private message in some way.

Let’s re-insert humanity into our social media feeds. We will not always agree, but we can always be kind.

10 thoughts on “Bringing Humanity to Social Media

  1. I totally agree with you about social media. Sometimes it’s an act of bravery to comment on something that you truly believe in because there are always trolls out there ready to pounce. I had an experience just this past weekend when taking part in a Twitter conversation about the Netflix documentary series, “Making a Murderer.” There was only one guy trolling the thread who was attacking everyone who commented–must have a lot of time on his hands and some sort of personal connection to the people involved in the series–but I decided I would speak my mind anyway. It almost comes down to not allowing bullies to control your right to have an opinion. Anyway, long comment! Ha! I only meant to say that I agree with you 100%. We need to not only insert humanity back into our social media feeds, but also into our daily lives on this planet. #kindness

  2. I agree with all of this. Some people seem to really connect on twitter but I just find it to be a series of monologues. This disconnection extends beyond social media to simply walking down the street. I want less icontact and more eye contact. I’m thinking of challenging myself to offer 20 greetings a day. I’m at about 5 now.

  3. I really love this post. I hate seeing how mean people can be on social media when we all know that they would probably never be that mean in person or so defensive. Sometimes I wish I could just hug them through the screen lol Kindness definitely goes a long way,

  4. I took a class on communication and learned just what you are saying. People do not treat others like people online. A few days ago I made a comment on a YouTube video and someone wanted to go to war ovr what I said. I am happy to say I stayed kind and ended my interaction with that person. Great poets.

  5. What perfect timing! I’ve been having similar thoughts about social media lately. It really has changed the dynamics of communication in a lot of ways!

  6. This was a great perspective! I agree, we all need to pay more attention to our demeanor online. It’s to the point now, personally, that I have unfollowed most of my friends on FB because of how they act towards other people. It’s sad.

  7. I agree, social media does suck. I hate it when I try to make decisions about what I share on my own wall because I have concerns about it affecting my business, or even admitting I support something because I’m worried it might affect relationships. It’s a rough world out there behind the screen, but I agree fully that we need to add more humanity to our social media.

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