I have been on Facebook for over 10 years. In looking at that decade on Facebook, it is hard to know how to evaluate it. Some parts of it have been fun and meaningful while other parts of it have been a complete and total shit-show. Social media is one of the most glaring examples of a double-edged sword I have ever seen. Indeed, the whole Internet is that way.
I have made friends on social media and I have lost friends on social media. I have had productive conversations and had discussions that went down the toilet and created more heat than light. I think there are certain personalities that have a hard time on Facebook. I am one of them. This is because I am so impassioned about ideology and politics. Social media is a town hall of ideas but like society as a hold it is more geared toward the status quo, including its attendant racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, weightism, cissexism, etc.
In a previous entry, I mentioned TERFs. TERFs are very active on social media and in the blogosphere. In fact, the hate they flung at me is what forced me to shut down my previous blog. Part of it was that I felt the need to battle with them mano a mano. I’d like to think I am in a different place now and not prone to such reactive behavior, but the reality is that it is easy to get dragged into such quarrels. Social media and the internet in general is incredibly political and ideological. If you don’t march in lockstep with someone you are often quickly cast aside as an enemy combatant. Finding middle ground on the web is no easy feat. I regret the way I have handled myself online sometimes and regret how others have treated me sometimes as well.
Losing friends has perhaps been the most painful part of social media life. Sometimes you get unfriended and have no idea why that has happened. Other times I have had to block people because they have said something incredibly offensive or they just begin to irritate me over time. To be sure, sometimes it is just an “unfollow” that transpires, but I often wonder about the relationship between online life and real, face-to-face life. I once had a friend who spent an inordinate amount of time on second life and I began to worry about the quality of her first life.
I think it is much easier to mistreat others and be abusive online than in face to face. There is a distancing that happens on the internet and in “social” media. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that there is nothing that takes the place of people meeting with each other in person. Online, social media, Skype, etc. is simply no replacement for the very palpable experience of sitting with someone and seeing them with your own eyes and hearing them with your own ears. I worry about the impact of social media on our relationships and I particularly am concerned about where this is all going. I used to say that the Internet was 50% for good and 50% for bad but now I see the bad as clearly outweighing the good. It has become a place of bullying, hatred, rage, anonymity, identity theft, lies, character assassination, darkness, cruelty and ruined relationships.
If I had it to do over again, would I have even joined Facebook back in August of 2007?