Social media has become an inspiring platform for communication. Sharing ideas, news, opinions, supportive words and all the random humor you never knew you needed. People who engage in social media whether it’s Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter or blogging are instantly empowered to persuade others. The power in this is phenomenal, no more do we have to rely on mass media to report a story through their carefully prepared lens, when it’s being tweeted live or video footage streaming on YouTube. Of course discretion is necessary too, the cliché yet true statement of “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet,” is valid. People can use lies and deceit to influence others, we know this happens on and off the internet.
There are no limits to the tools social media can provide in advancing our society, improving awareness and protecting each other around the world. There are no limits, except the ones we put on ourselves and each other.
In the last few weeks I have noticed an increasing number of friends and family who have voiced complaints about what others have shared on mass media. “Oh my God, she posts so many baby pics it makes me sick.” “I can’t stand all of the religious crap people share, if I wanted to hear it I would go to church.” “I don’t get on Facebook for political arguments, I just want to catch up with family and friends.” And the statements could go on and on…
You have choices when it comes to social media, what are you going to do?
We are confronted with things we are irritated by on a daily basis, you can let yourself suffer by what you read from your crazy conservative college buddy, or what your boyfriend’s cousin thinks of animal welfare? Suffering is always an option. You can stew about it, let it put you in a foul mood and begin to question humanity wondering for hours about how someone could be so ignorant. You might even try to influence their point of view by initiating an argument, which almost always reinforces the person’s initial perspective and puts them in a position to like you less.
If what someone says is bothersome to you, what you see is repulsive or the information conflicts with every ounce of your ethics maybe it’s time to take measures to spare your sanity.
- Cut ties. Maybe it’s time to disassociate from some connections you have on social media. It’s not necessary to continue to maintain online relationships with every individual you have ever met. It’s acceptable to detach from your friend’s ex-girlfriend, the guy from high school you didn’t really like then either, or the co-worker who was laid off three years ago.
- Block it. If there are some people you want to maintain connection to online and can’t get over what they have to share, consider blocking their posts. This can be especially helpful for the friend you are close to who is always negative about everything, over sharing their personal life or constantly reporting daily physical ailments you know is more related to them being a negative person than to real illness.
- Influence opinions. Instigating an argument is easy to do online, people can be openly vicious and cruel without fear of bodily harm. However, no one is likely to respond positively and be persuaded to accept another view with “You’re wrong moron.” If you really desire to change someone’s perspective and help them to grow to another point of view, the best means to influencing change is through validation. Finding whatever may be true in their statement and letting them know you heard/saw/understand their perspective. “It would be scary to have a three-headed monster living next door thinking they are cannibals.(validation) Did you know 99% of three-headed monsters are vegetarian and the other 1% only eat glow worms.(influencing change)”
The final option you have when it comes to coping with social media posts is to accept you cannot control how other people think, what is important to them and how they want to share their opinions. If you don’t like what someone has to say, keep scrolling.
And if there are posts you are seeing which are upsetting to you, it could mean you need to do some self exploration. Find out what is upsetting about it, why are you bothered and is there knowledge you need to gain to settle the discomfort. In some instances, suffering leads to knowledge, activism and social change necessary to improve our world. Would Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa be posting pictures of kittens if they were alive today?