Friday Ramblings: Why Does Social Media Bring Out the Worst in People?

Sometimes I look at my Facebook news feed and find myself repeating the same thought over and over in my head. I will see a status update from someone and think about how much more I’d probably like that person if I had no idea of what they were capable of putting out on their social media accounts.

What I mean is that I will come across a status from someone who I really like in person and in one-on-one conversation and wonder how it is that they are such a pompous, unhappy, condesnding jerk when they post on Facebook.

I will avoid giving specific examples of the kind of thing that I mean because doing that might imply that I am targeting specific people when in fact many of us, probably even myself from time to time are guilty of this bad behavior.

It seems like posts dealing with politics and the news tend to bring out the worst parts of people’s character on Facebook. I see people describe people who disagree with them on a subject with some of the worst names you would ever want to be called when on Facebook and sometimes think about how I’ve had disagreements with those same people, sometimes on the same issue, in a one-on-one or other type of private communication and they would never use that language with me. So which is the real person, the one I actually deal with or the one that is tossing out bombs like candy at Halloween on their Facebook profile?

It feels to me like social media is becoming like one of those talk shows where they have a bunch of different guests and so it becomes a contest to see who can get the most camera time by tossing out the most far out comment they can think of. If you act controversial on Facebook, do you think that will get more people to stop on your status update instead of scrolling to the next one?

Maybe social media, especially Facebook has always had this appeal to people or served this function. But it feels like it is getting worse as time passes. Consequently, I look at my news feed less and less.

I know what some of you are thinking. If you don’t like a person’s status updates but don’t want to unfriend them completely, then just hide them from appearing on your news feed. I can’t really do that, however. The reason is simple, these people are my friends.
I would never imagine myself telling someone that they shouldn’t post this or that on their Facebook page. Most of my friends are adults and can make their own decisions. If they want to come off looking like an arrogant prick on their Facebook page, that is their right because it is their page and they can do with it as they so choose.
Remember, I actually like these people and I do want to know what is going on with them. I guess I could hide their updates, it is not as if they would be able to figure it out…although for some people they would notice that I like their updates less and less. Hiding people’s statuses does mean I would miss out on some things I would like and find important because not everyone is a prick in every post.

If I ever stop using Facebook for good it will probably be because of things like this. It just seems that something about social media especially Facebook allows people to share the worst side of themselves with the world. Maybe the answer is simple and that the reason good people often look profoundly bad on Facebook is that it is easy to post an update without actually giving much thought to the words you are putting out there for people to see.

I try to put some thought into the things I put out on social media. For example, I don’t often find myself in agreement with the current President of the United States. But I certainly don’t post status updates calling his supporters any manner of vile names that I might come up with, I never slam the President personally and honestly, even though I disagree with his policies in many areas, I almost never talk about that kind of thing on my Facebook page in the first place. Honestly, I almost never talk about things that bother me on Facebook and when I do I always try to be funny about it because you can’t spell funny without fun and more than anything else, I want to have fun.
Again, I would hardly suggest that I have always behaved myself on Facebook. I’m also quite sure that if I were to look back at some of the things I have said on my page over the years there are things I would not be proud of and things I’d want to take back. We all make mistakes, even me.

This is generally how I feel about things like this. You can’t raise the bar by lowering the floor. If you feel the need to answer what you consider hate with hate of your own, than you’re no better off than the person you just demonized. Two wrongs don’t make a right in real life and that also goes for online.

I think as I write this i have answered one of my own long-standing questions. Why do I like Twitter more than Facebook? I think I like Twitter more because it still feels like fun. Perhaps it is the 140 character limit that keeps things from getting as out of hand. Yes, people do say stupid things on Twitter as well but at least it is always short. If you’ll excuse me, after writing a post like this, a part of me thinks I should go tell those rotten kids to get off my lawn.