Friday, April 29, 2016

The False Socialization of Social Media

In the homeschooling world, we get asked a particular question A LOT:
"But what about socialization?"

And we answer it as kindly and compassionately as possible, because it isn't that person's fault that we've been asked that particular question 1.3 million times before she asked it. ;)

However, since i am frequently dealing with that question, i find that my mind pays attention more to socialization issues than perhaps the average adult. And it is in this attentiveness over the past few weeks that i have noticed something quite upsetting:

Social media is actually harming the way we socialize.

Hear me out.

The idea of social media is to connect with others, whether it be friends or family who live some distance away, or within communities of like-minded or similar beliefs as us. And when you hone your followers or friends, you can achieve a pretty good balance of that.

The problems that i am seeing come in the form of inflammatory posts made to divide us into boxes. Oh, you know, the ones that start with "Republicans believe..." or "Democrats think..." or the ones that go something like this: "For all YOU who believe..." Because, you know, all people in those groups are exactly alike and all that.... :-P

The issue, too, is that there seems to be no filter anymore to anyone's internal dialog. I get the honor of being privy to your inner-most generalizations about a particular group of people. And the sad thing is, sometimes i am in that group of people. Things that you would likely never say to my face if we were sharing a meal somewhere are now blasted with the most harsh speech imaginable over social media. And i'm sure i made these mistakes in the past, too. Hopefully, i have learned to temper my thoughts and not use social media to rail at the world around me.

But i won't lie.... It's changing how i feel about some people. Not because i am judging them based on their views, but because i now wonder how they TRULY feel about me. The next time we sit down at the Christmas dinner table, i'm going to be uncomfortably aware that you think i'm a heartless, bigoted, morally-confused, high-and-mighty idiot. And the next time you call and invite me to coffee, i may decline. Because now i know how you feel about me. Sure, not me specifically, but "people like me." And frankly, that is not that different. That's why i believe social media is actually killing relationships.

I love a great many people who are very different than me. And i respect their uniqueness and their zest for life within the bounds of what they believe. And i truly do cherish differences, because honestly, a world full of people just like me would be a complete and utter disaster! We need variety. God is painting a masterpiece, and we all play a part!

But i am growing world-weary with social media thrusting in my face the black-and-white nature of some people i thought i knew. The hateful speech over hot-button issues from people who i thought were open-minded and loving. The finger-pointing and judgment from people i thought were welcoming and sweet-natured. It's all too much for me lately.

Sure, i could cancel my account and never engage in the craziness. But there are so many benefits to me for some social media sites that i have not decided to walk away. Yet.

Does anyone else see social media degrading our social interactions with one another?
Have you put distance in any relationships because of social media posts?
I'd love to hear from you on this issue. :)

In the meantime, remember:
There's a person on the other side of social media.