There are days when I am tempted to give up social media altogether. Sometimes it seems like such a toxic and hostile place, that I wonder if much good can come of it, but then I remember that Facebook is just a tool, and like any tool that humans have created it can be used for good or for evil and the choice is largely up to us. So here is how I have resolved to use Facebook and other social media tools for good in the coming year.
- I will take possession of my Facebook page.
Remember Myspace? Yeah, me neither. But the one thing Myspace had going for it before Facebook came along was its name: MY SPACE. I think we forget that our Facebook News Feed and our Facebook Profiles are ours to control. People are free to say or post what they want on their own pages, that is their right. They are not free to post whatever they want on MY page though. That is my right. Facebook can be a wonderful tool that connects me to friends and loved ones, or it can be a toxic pit of nastiness. Just because I share something publicly does not mean that I have to leave or accept every comment that is made on my page. I reserve the right to delete comments and entire posts if I choose to, because MY Facebook page is not YOUR public forum. If you want to have an argument with someone, do it on your own page.
- I will not feed trolls.
Internet trolls abound. They thrive on the negative attention they get by making nasty comments and criticisms. These are people who feel the need to inject themselves and their opinions into every argument or conversation. You cannot argue with trolls, because it is that very negative attention that they live for; it feeds them. If you want to make a nasty comment or a personal attack on my page I will delete it and probably block you without comment or argument. If you are looking for a fight, keep on looking.
- I will not be guilted into sharing posts
I bet 25 people won’t share this, or read this all the way to the end, or…. enough already! I have a huge heart and I care about many different causes, but I don’t feel the need to prove that to anyone with a Facebook post. I will not be guilted into sharing posts or pictures or status updates. Some of them are scams anyways. If you want to show the world how compassionate you are, I can think of millions of ways you can make a difference and Facebook isn’t one of them.
- I will not give free publicity to the stupid
One of the great things about Facebook is that it can be a powerful spotlight for bringing attention to important subjects and unsung heroes. Unfortunately that same light can also be used to give legitimacy and publicity to people that are less benign. If someone does something stupid, or says something nasty, and you share it or comment on it, it only gives them more publicity. It doesn’t matter if you share a news article about something bizarre some local person is doing and you tell others how much you dislike it; the moment you share or comment, you have helped them spread their message. You can never shout someone down on Facebook. The only way to stop people that wish to promote their dangerous or stupid ideas is by ignoring them. The more attention (even negative attention) you give them, the more free publicity they get.
- I will not get my news from Facebook.
Sometimes fake news is very easy to spot; sometimes it is more difficult, but a huge portion of so-called news articles that are shared via Facebook are completely fabricated. Anyone can create a website and post articles and share them on Facebook at almost no cost. Much of the time there is no penalty for this type of lying, and in fact some of these sites make big bucks off of spreading their falsehoods. I will get my news only from balanced and reputable sources outside of social media. I will also unfollow or block any false news or propaganda sites that show up in my news feed, and if you are someone that routinely shares them, there is a good chance I will unfollow you too. If you aren’t sure if something is true or not, then don’t share it.
- I will put rage aside.
Some people always seem to be angry about everything. I will not be one of them. I honestly do not have the emotional energy to be constantly outraged over everything. If I only knew the world through Facebook it would seem like a pretty awful place indeed, but thankfully I know that I live in a world where there is still love, joy and compassion. By all means have your values and stand up for what you believe, but remember that it is always possible to do so without attacking others. Use your Facebook page to make reasonable and rational arguments for your positions, but if all you can offer is constant rage I will not be listening.
- I will only share things that I think build people up.
It’s just this simple: before I hit “post” or “share” I will ask myself: “Does this seek to build or destroy?” Is my primary purpose in sharing something to lift people up or to tear them down? Thumper’s rule: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.
- I will treat Facebook like my living room.
I remember how exciting Facebook was the first few years it was on the scene. It allowed me to reconnect with so many friends and family members and to see what was going on in their lives. Every day I could sit down and catch up with people all over the country; see pictures and tell stories. It was like having a bunch of friends over in my living room. That is what I want from Facebook again: I want to know what is going on in the lives of my family and friends and to spend time with them chatting and exchanging ideas. I don’t mind a healthy and respectful exchange of ideas or debate (those have always happened in my family, especially around the dinner table), but I don’t tolerate disrespect and personal attacks in my home and I won’t tolerate them on Facebook either.
- I will use unfriend and unfollow very liberally.
I have been blessed to meet some wonderful people through Facebook; some people that I might even call close friends even though I have never actually met them. That is one of the beautiful things that I love about Facebook: the power to be connected to people. But I will not allow the bad Facebook habits of others turn me completely off of social media, and luckily I don’t have to. Facebook allows me to unfollow people that post obnoxious things, and if necessary I can even unfriend them. I will do this without apology, because although I cannot avoid all negative people in my life, I do not need to invite them into my home every night.
- I will turn it off and find something else to do.
I spend more time on Facebook now than I ever did in the past, and yet I seem to enjoy it far less. Facebook is so much more fun when it isn’t a constant drain on my time, energy and attention, so I am going to be more intentional about pushing it aside. I will spend more time doing things that enrich my own life, like reading, prayer and exercise and less time worrying about what other people are doing or saying online.
Sometimes the best thing to do when we see something we don’t like on Facebook is to keep scrolling past it. It’s not that I am afraid to speak up for what I believe or that I can’t take criticism or disagreement. If you think that I only want friends that agree with me or that like everything I post you would be wrong. Looking through my list of friends I can identify people of every personality, every political party, different religions, different sexual orientations and different levels of education. I am perfectly happy to debate ideas with people; I am just not convinced that Facebook is the place to do it. In fact, I am sure that it isn’t the place. There is so much meaning in what we say that is not conveyed by words on the page. Things like tone, inflection, body language and facial expressions don’t come across online and they are often crucial to understanding what another person is really trying to communicate. It is easy to forget when you are looking at a computer screen that it is actually another human that you are talking to. If you want to debate something with me, let’s go for a drink or a meal and talk person to person, because the great irony of Facebook is that the one thing you usually can’t see when chatting with someone on it, is their face.