Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

I used to love social media. I’m active on facebook, twitter, instagram, and Linkedin. By being part of these networks I could see what friends, family and colleagues were up to, and share with them the happenings in my life. Over time, my network has grown to include people with whom I had more tenuous connection with in my daily life, including former colleagues, school friends, and even some strangers that I don’t even remember connecting with!

I am not in love with social media anymore.

There are a few observations I want to make that have led to my questioning on whether I should remain active on social media.

Growing Negativity

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a pretty positive and optimistic person. I have sensed that more and more social media is full of vitriol and negativity. I’m not saying I haven’t found myself sharing negative opinions, heck, I’ve openly shared my disdain for Donald Trump, but, many will say things they would never say to you in person, they will attack your friends comments without considering their feelings or how it may impact your relationships. Many do so feeling that they have cart blanche approval to pick fights on your pages. I’ve muted and un-friended many people because of this trend. Life is too short to find ourselves bogged down in negativity.

False Fronts

In reflecting on social media, I am reminded of an allegory from my favourite novel, As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross. Ross frequently references the ‘false fronts’ in the western town and it becomes clear he’s drawing a correlation with the false lives presented on the surface of his characters. I will admit a predilection to sharing the more positive aspects of my life on my social media channels. In full transparency, my social media persona has not always matched my current state of mind. In the past, for instance, I have struggled with depression, but you’d never know that looking at my accounts — giving social media contacts an unrealistic depiction of my life. I also have read articles about how many can spiral into darkness seeing the seemingly perfect lives of those around them and feeling a sense of personal or professional failure. Imagine struggling financially or in your personal life, only to log into your facebook account and seeing photos of happy families on vacations around the world… it would be very difficult for some. Social media serves as a modern way of determining if you’re keeping up with the Jones’. For many, that is hard.

Reality vs. Fiction

We now know there is a whole industry built around the creation of fake accounts or ‘bots’ that are designed to manipulate how we view issues and news on social media. The proliferation of so-called ‘news’ sources on all sides of the political spectrum have been designed to drive wedges between us as a society. Those stories are then amplified through the bots and fake accounts, many of which look professional and real. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between good news sources and poor ones. One would hope that the graduates of education systems that focus on critical thinking would be less likely to share from such sources, but, I find myself constantly seeing well-educated contacts sharing articles from dubious sources.

Furthermore, the decline of newspapers and media and the journalistic standards that they would apply prior to printing a story means that we are seeing stories that aren’t fact checked more and more. The erosion of editorial standards is becoming of greater concern each day.

I worry about children growing up in this world of social media. The bullying that takes place, the judgement. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a kid today. Social media will be a part of their lives and they will never know anything different. At the very least we need to equip them with the resources, both mentally and physically to ensure they manage the impact of social media on their lives.

I’m going to spend the next few weeks figuring out if I remain on the social media channels I am currently using, and if I do remain, how I will alter my usage to ensure they don’t become a forum that creates stress or anxiety. Why should I follow people that I don’t get genuine value from? I’m not proposing that I want to be in an echo chamber of people who agree with me, rather, there are some journalists and friends whom I disagree with frequently, but I love to hear and read their points of view largely because they present those opinions in a tactful and respectful fashion. I also will work harder to ensure that my social media footprint is more accurate. I want to be as authentic as possible to those around me. In my real life I have always made an effort to consciously surround myself with good-natured people. In 2020 this will apply to my ‘online’ life.

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Chris Emanuel

Chris Emanuel

A business leader who has driven organizational change. A former politician (still recovering) who likes to comment on business, politics and society