I have much to say about a lot of things going on in the world, but you probably won’t read about it on social media. In fact, I probably won’t share it because I find that social media and 21st century society in general diminish the value of my words. This happens in the following ways:
Social media amplifies or mutes messages based on popularity instead of truth.
I don’t post on social media very often these days. On those occasions when I do, what I have deliberately crafted as a clear, concise, and conscientious message is posted in the intellectual wasteland of social media to compete with millions of other voices for space in your news feed (designed to be an echo chamber of your particular viewpoints) to see who reads it. I don’t think it is unreasonable to compare it to trying to deliver a eulogy without a microphone at the Daytona 500. In this season of social distancing where everything happens virtually, social media is a virtual riot.
The ugly truth is that many people evaluate and often filter out messages based on demographics. They think men should not have opinions on abortion, that white people should not have opinions on black issues, that millennials should not have opinions about social security, that straight people should not have opinions on gay issues, etc. These people predetermine the value of my words based on what I am instead of considering who I am or what I have to say. They judge the message based on the messenger’s age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. instead of its content.
Making uncomfortable topics “political.”
Anything that people don’t want to hear about gets moved from the arena of “morality” into the arena of “political” and is no longer appropriate to discuss. In my experience, discomfort around moral issues is typically associated with guilt. However, many people would rather frame these issues as political and create a safe space for their guilt rather than confront its root cause and deal with it. Please note that there are two common variations of this approach. One is when a moral issue has been “nullified” by “settled science” and the other is when people embrace their guilt and weaponize it.
We have probably all seen this one: “If you don’t agree with X, then un-friend me.” These people want to completely isolate themselves from ideas that don’t perfectly align with their own. The sanctity of their ideas is more important to them than their relationships with other people. Unfortunately, this type of rabid self-isolation is now commonplace and is responsible for much of the division in this country.
This is an offshoot of political correctness and intellectual quarantining where the only thing you (as part of a particular demographic) can say is X. If you say anything other than X, then you’re automatically considered to be wrong. Out of all the thoughts a person could think on a subject, the only “right” one is X. Don’t say anything? Silence is not X; silence is also wrong. Scripting discourages free thinking and open, honest dialogue. It is a lose-lose proposition.
In a time where we need each other more than ever, these conversation killers need to go. We are not facing black problems, white problems, urban problems, rural problems, northern problems, southern problems, wealth problems, or poverty problems. These are national problems and consequently require national solutions. And if we want to solve them as a nation, we have to begin to be a part of the solution by listening to one another again. You may not be able to change social media logarithms, but you can choose to listen to people with opinions different than your own. You don’t need to agree, just listen to understand. And that is the first step on the long road forward.