01661: Social Media Disagreements

Social media is a bit of a cultural phenomenon it itself. It's an amazing communication experience that brings together a wide variety of people with different backgrounds and all that fun stuff. Whether we're talking about Facebook or Twitter, the social media experience is one that allows you to communicate with different people about a variety of things from the comfort of your home or wherever you happen to bring your smartphone.

But at the same time, social media also makes it a little too easy to find out about the types of opinions that your friends and family have that you might not have known without social media. In the past one would have to physically meet up with people or perhaps contact them more directly over the telephone in order to hear what they had to say about a certain television show or news item. Now we have everyone essentially broadcasting their thoughts and feelings about just about anything on a 24/7 basis.

This reality is one that we all face - and this is especially true when it comes to major events that have people flocking to social media to post their opinions. During such periods when it feels like practically everyone is talking about the same thing, it's hard to determine how best to respond in such situations. In one respect, some would argue that it's better not to say anything at all and just ride out the wave of status posts and tweets and whatever until the subject of discussion is past. In other cases, there's the practice of "avoiding" social media in order to not have to read all these updates and focus on other things. The fact that we have to announce that we are disengaging from social media for a period of time is less about showing disdain for the majority topic but more to explain why one can't be reached across social media networks. Let's face it - we sort of expect people to be connected most significantly.

When you distill the social media experience to its most basic elements, you can probably state that some of the most common reasons for arguments over the internet involve the thoughts of "Why don't you like what I like?" or "Why don't you agree with my opinion?" and other related statements. Because of social media, we find out that our friends and family can have opposing views to yours - that you don't always like the same things or have the same degree of passion about a subject that is important to you. And thus just posting about your lack of interest or enthusiasm for a subject can be immediately tagged as "hating" a subject or being overly negative somehow. It sounds weird when discussed in this manner, but it's a very true thing that we all see day after day across our social media networks.

Disagreeing with someone is not a crime - in fact it's supposed to be a fundamental aspect of our generally democratic society. But I suppose it can't be avoided to feel hurt somehow when the people you consider to be friends don't quite appreciate what you love. Being passionate about something can lead us to be highly defensive of that subject and thus we take to social media to defend its virtues or merits with quite a passion.

At the end of the day, the social media experience is one that needs to have its own set of rules - a sort of etiquette if you will. You can't treat social media discussions as you would real world conversations given the fact that the element of choice in terms of whether or not you want to "hear" about a person's opinion on a particular subject is no longer in your control. When you add a friend on a social media network, you agree to hear everything that they have to say about any possible topic. You no longer have the sort of social contract that comes with older forms of interaction - that you won't necessarily hear what they have to say about something until you ask about it. And even when people start to talk about it, you can immediately state that this is not a subject that you are interested in. Instead, the social media broadcast goes on and on and when you disagree or when you choose not to be part of what everyone is engaged it, it can be taken negatively.

I write about this reality only because I know that I'm quirky in the respect that a lot of the things that most of my friends seem to like, I don't. And it's not like I hate things like beauty pageants or reality TV competitions - it's just not what I'm interested in. In the same way I know that I can expect expect everyone to love Dune as fiercely as I do nor do they necessarily care about the latest Transformer at all that much. But hey, we flock to social media to talk about what we love and hope to find those that agree with us. And that's what I focus on - finding people who share my interests so that we might be be able to engage in a discussion about said item at a later time. For all those who don't agree, I just ignore. My goal is never to convince my friends to like everything I like, at least in terms of the more trivial stuff. The only time I engage in bigger arguments are because of key news items that affect how the country works or truly important issues like the fight for LGBT rights.

But that's another subject entirely.