Has Social Media Become Antisocial?

Okay, I finally did it: I divorced Facebook. I let my friends know that I am done and won’t be visiting that space any more.

Why? Because, I am tired of seeing so much hate spewed on social media. I’m tired of all the cyberbullying. It’s truly becoming antisocial media. It’s bad enough when the network news pumps out nothing but bad news and disaster, but when my Facebook page becomes a battleground, it’s time to stop. I have “friends” telling my other “friends” what they should and shouldn’t post. I’m seeing posts about people on one side of the political debate calling for the death of those on the other side. I was sincerely hoping that after the election we could get back to funny videos, uplifting quotes, weird facts and being friends again. My hopes have once again been dashed.

Years ago, my mom and I decided that we were what could be termed “cynical optimists.” While we always hope for the best, we’re not really that surprised when things don’t turn out all roses, rainbows and unicorns. But that’s not even what I’m looking for these days. All I want is a little civility. Discussion rather than destruction. Informed opinions rather than blind propagation of propaganda. A place to share points of view, not stomp different ideas into the ground.

I am a member of a “controversial” religion (read that with tongue in cheek). I am a Scientologist. We believe in such outlandish concepts as: don’t do drugs; do not harm a person of goodwill; seek to live with the truth; help others and so on. Pretty controversial stuff.

Now, if I posted on Facebook that I really liked Scientology, what do you think would happen? I’m pretty sure I know because I’ve seen things on the internet about my religion that are too stupid to be believed. The nicest things that would be said by the bullying crowd—people who don’t even know me—would be along the lines of, “How could you believe in that?!” or “You people are crazy.”

How in the world does a complete stranger think he “knows” that I am crazy? I might be, but if you’ve never met me, how could you possibly come to that conclusion and why would you feel compelled to spew this bigotry in public?

My religion is not alone. Unfortunately, the same reaction could be elicited by posting that I am Muslim, Mormon or Christian, to name a few other religions that I have seen bashed in recent “social” media.

With the internet, we now have a platform that can be used to educate, enlighten and bring us together. But instead, it is too often used as a place where anyone can spew all the false, hateful crap they want with no thought of the harm it may cause.

Which brings me back to the main point. Facebook and the internet have brought about a new era of antisocial behavior. Once upon a time (30 years ago), you didn’t launch into a verbal attack on complete strangers. You met them, had conversations with them and got to know them. You asked about their views. You didn’t think you had to change the way they thought. You respected them as individuals and as human beings. My grandmother, a southern Methodist, was gracious and accepting of my religion, much more so than some young people I’ve met in recent years. Now, in the new millennium, after years of work to usher in an era of tolerance, it seems to be sadly lacking.

With the internet, we now have a platform that can be used to educate, enlighten and bring us together. But instead, it is too often used as a place where anyone can spew all the false, hateful crap they want with no thought of the harm it may cause. The faceless anonymity of the internet allows people to spout untruths and hate speech which, in the form of cyberbullying, has cost lives. This is antisocial behavior. If it were done in person, I don’t think anyone would “like” it.

So, how about we all endeavor to be social in our activities, including social media? You never know where your kindness will land and whose life will be uplifted.

Photos by: Benoit Daoust/ REDPIXELPL / Shutterstock.com

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