Do Not Engage User

Note: I wrote this post quite some time ago.  (I actually don’t remember when I wrote it.)  I just found it in a file I was cleaning out and remembered writing it (vaguely) but also remembered that I didn’t want to post it right away because it was obviously a reaction so something I had witnessed online. I wanted some distance between the incident and my response.  
Fortunately, God has blessed me with a very short memory.  I forgive and forget quite easily and this is no exception.  Since I don’t remember the particular incident I can honestly say no when someone inevitably asks me, “Were you writing about me?”

I’m on Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn and Google+) a lot.  Not because I’m killing time… but because it has been a big part of my employment in the past.  I love the concept of social media (and understand it well) but I hate it when it is mis-used and turns into an obsession instead of a communication tool.  And that happens a lot.  During the last few years I’ve watched friends and family enjoy “Facebook Free” time as their Lenten sacrifice and I was really jealous.  I’d love to be able to walk away from it all, even if it is only for a little while.

But we can’t blame social media for the drama.  We have to blame the users.  

Social media is more than just a tool to keep up with friends and family.  For most of us, it’s our major source of news and world events.  It keeps us connected to other people and that’s not a bad thing, unless the people it connects us to are toxic and then it’s just easy to get sucked in to their negative energy.

One of my biggest pet-peeves is the intentional vague post. You know what these look like… I’m sure you’ve probably read one today.  They are almost always anger based (and frankly make the poster look immature.)  They usually include the term “some people” and sound a little like this…

“Some people are going to get what’s coming to them as soon as everyone knows what they did.”

“I can’t believe how stupid some people can be…”

“I’m so angry I could just punch some people in the throat!”

Our first reaction is to think… “Who?  What? When? Where? Why?  Are they talking about me?”  

And that’s exactly what the poster is looking for… they want you to engage. 

Please don’t engage.

It only encourages bad behavior.  If anyone stops and thinks about it, posting these kinds of statements doesn’t solve anything.  You might be thinking these thoughts but sharing them with the rest of the world is not going to be productive.  It only perpetuates the anger.  If it’s empathy you’re looking for, call up a trusted friend and vent and then let it go.  Posting your thoughts only makes you look like a fool and doesn’t get you the right kind of attention.  The odds of your target audience actually seeing the rant-post are fairly slim… and you’re just irritating the rest of us.

Speaking of anger… Stop and think about what that particular emotion does to us physically and emotionally.  It’s brutal!  Now I know it’s normal to feel anger once in a while, but those individuals who choose to stay in the state are only hurting themselves and the others around them.  Anger has far too many unintended victims.

Here’s a newsflash for you… I don’t like everyone I know.  And furthermore… not everyone who knows me, likes me either.  And guess what?  The same goes for you too and that is all perfectly ok.  (What other people think of me is none of my business.)  Liking someone is not a requirement to get along in this world. I do think mutual respect and even compassion are vital components, but not necessarily fondness.  Sometimes the most respectful and compassionate thing I can do for someone (and for myself) is to keep my distance and my opinions to myself and I don’t even have to like the other person to do it.

There is an effective way we can clean up our news feeds and keep our social media channels “drama free”… Unfriend or unfollow the offending user.  You can ALWAYS do this… and it seems so simple and yet very few of us will actually do it (even it saves us from drama in the future.)  Just as you can “unsubscribe” from junk mail… remove those people who are not bringing positive energy to the platform.  There’s no judgement; just a decision.   I cannot tell you how wonderful this can feel.  You just have to try it for yourself.

If you don’t have the guts to “unfriend” (or think it will only cause more drama) just block them.  They won’t be notified and you won’t see their stuff.  This way  you still have access to their information but it won’t be force-fed to you in a feed.  (I’ve done this a lot and I very rarely go seeking these individuals.)

I also suggest unplugging once in a while.  Start with a few minutes a day, and entire day (Sundays are good) or better yet… for an undetermined amount of time.  (See how long you can go without checking the feeds.)

I’m seriously considering a social media free Lent for 2018.  For the first time many years, I don’t have to be on the networks for employment.  We’ll see.  I’ve spent the last few years of my life talking about the benefits (if not necessity) of social media (especially for businesses) and still believe in the value. I’ve whined about the desire to disconnect.  This might be my big chance.