By Victoria Lynn Hall
I often say that one of my top social media pet peeves is people who go on social media to tell everyone how terrible social media is.
Believe me, I know social media has it’s problems and pitfalls and I certainly accept that it isn’t for everyone. My older sister, for example, has no interest in having a social media account and gets through life just fine without one. And yet she doesn’t tell me that my spending time on social media is wrong, nor do I tell her that her not doing so is wrong. Knowing each other as well as we do, our differences as well as our similarities, it makes complete sense to both of us that something she sees no value in for herself would have value for me.
And yet, I continue to see hypocritical posts from people on social media warning people about the dangers of social media or telling people there is something wrong with them for using it. Since these people know very little about my life or the life of many others they appear to be targeting with this message, I can only assume it is a projection of their own fears or experience.
Another aspect of this argument is in political activist circles, especially on Twitter, where people seem to enjoy telling others that their efforts on Twitter do not count as activism or aren’t effective politically.
Just last night I read a tweet that said, “Twitter isn’t real life. Stop shouting into your phone and help your community.”
Not only is it incredibly presumptuous to assume that people who are using Twitter aren’t helping their local community outside of Twitter, it discounts the fact that Twitter itself creates and connects communities.
Yes, people also use Twitter to engage in divisive behaviors but I would argue that in that, as well in more positive ways, social media is exactly like real life and is no less a reflection of our society than any other medium of expression. Many things that people tend to label as, “not real life” have an impact on society which in turn affects our politics; fictional books and movies, any form of art and music, any format or forum that allows people to express their human experience is valid and valuable in a social and political context.
In my view, social media gives more people from varying walks of life an opportunity to express themselves freely and honestly and to connect with others around the world for community and organizing. If some people use it strictly or perhaps just occasionally to argue about petty bullshit that is their own business.
Personally, I have been involved in volunteer efforts for my local community but these came as a result of my involvement in social media endeavors, not in spite of them. And I have also volunteered for political campaigns both on and off social media and I find that my social media skills were valued in those situations as much if not more than my efforts “on the ground”. And yes, sometimes I do use social media to vent and complain to my community on there because we all need to vent to our friends sometimes – especially in a pandemic when many of us are unable to connect with people in other ways.
But mostly I value social media because it allows me to glimpse into the lives of those who have different experiences than me; to listen to their stories and learn about their struggles and how this contrasts with the mainstream media narrative that mostly ignores them. Any platform that allows us to amplify the real voices of real people has real life value to me.
As Marianne Williamson has written, “Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.” And I believe it is up to each of us to develop that part for ourselves.
So if you really feel social media isn’t effective, then take that as guidance to focus more on what is effective for you. And if you feel that social media is a place where you find value, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re doing something wrong or not doing enough by using it.
I have found that just showing up anywhere where people are talking with an intention to listen and learn can be a positive step in the right direction, and social media is as good as a place to do that as any place in “real life”.
Many people cite the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” as the source of their concerns. I suggest also considering this counter to it: The Social Dilemma? Nope. Just Silicon Valley propaganda.
Another concern is the misinformation one may encounter on social media, Jesse Crall and I discuss this and more in Episode 5 of Ask Jesse:
You can also click here to read our show notes for this episode.
View my short “Social Media Thoughts” videos here.
One way to be more effective on social media is to share our own unique experiences and perspectives in longer formats. See our Share Your Story page to learn how you can join our community of contributors here on Amplifire Project.
A self taught artist and creative entrepreneur, Victoria Lynn Hall lives in the Kansas City area with 4 spoiled cats. She believes in art and the magic of kindness.