I don’t like to get very political but social media has seemingly foisted it upon all of us, so one of my favorite moments this year was during a House Committee meeting was when Rep. Maxine Waters was interviewing the Treasury Secretary. As he dodged and wheedled his answers, Waters forcefully responded “Reclaiming my time!”, she was not about to let someone run out the clock on her without giving her answers and she had no time for nonsense. Now, I have a feeling Rep. Waters and I probably don’t agree on much else in politics but I’m taking her phrase and applying it to social media. I have no time for this nonsense anymore.
I’ve been a part of “social media” since before it was even known as social media. I participated on Bulletin Boards via modem in the early 90’s. I was an active participant in USENET groups in the later 90’s and I had a “journal” on a web site before “blog” was even a word. I dipped a toe in MySpace and was an early adopter to both Facebook (2005) and Twitter (2006). I’ve made a lot of friends and cultivated a lot of relationships, I’ve met up with people I met online at music festivals and even invited them into my house!
That was in a culture when the hosts of the social media were more interested in our participation and less interested in selling and molding us.
Elections have always had quite a bit of rancor online. I still have archives of e-mails of hundreds of lines of text from friends on how the Clinton (Bill, not his wife) Administration will ruin us all and most of it is (thankfully) lost to the mists of time but the arguments of “hanging chads” filled my inbox at one time. Even by those standards, the 2016 election might have been the most noxious of all. To top it all off, our country elected a fool completely unable to govern but completely content to wade into every aspect of my life on social media. Even sports and music are no longer refuges as he picks fights with athletes and celebrities. Every day I get a blindingly stupid tweet and then people on Twitter queue up to see who can be outraged the most.
Well, I’m not going to be a part of it. The year 2017 generated a lot of noise and there were positive moments. The #metoo response by women revealed to everyone something we knew but denied, sexual harassment is widespread and generally unpunished. Racial inequality is still very much a thing and the gap between the poor and the obscenely wealthy only grows wider. Unfortunately, most of the rest of social media was just noise and too much of it. Even on issues I agreed with, the constant drum beat of misery and anger was overwhelming. I was dismissed as racist and sexist when pointing out nuances by people I didn’t know. I’m no longer giving the outrage my time. People will sneer at me and say, “it must be nice to be so privileged as to ignore these issues” and I won’t deny privilege as it’s a status not a sin. I will leverage mine to be more effective to those I can help. Social media is not interacting with people in real life in my community. I’m still going to follow voices from different political perspectives but it will be friends that I trust and value who thoughtfully consider important problems. I’ll discuss politics with friends online in restricted environments but I’m not interested in a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend wading into the discussion with their terrible opinion any more. I’m also no longer giving this nonsensical government my time, I’ve blocked our president’s tweets. It’s impossible to miss his buffoonery and I’m sure I’ll hear about it through other channels.
So, in addition to that, I’m reducing my footprint on sites that get my content for free and return the gift with advertisements. I’m going to be posting here on the site that I own more and less on Facebook and Twitter. My goal is to figure out the best way to share items that are semi-private (like pictures of my children) with those that want to see them without sharing them with the Internet at large or making it so prohibitive to access them that no one bothers. In 2018, I’m hoping to shape my social media usage so that I can positively affect others better and have less of anonymous or second-hand and third-hand contacts shaping me.