A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Facebook, Or How I Learned to Stop Loving Social Media and Fear Generation A

When I set up this blog over seven years ago, I merely meant to have it keep track of events in our lives, such as moving, starting a family, kid escapades, holidays and such. It was nice, it was simple, and it was easy to share photos and happy times. Then social media in general began to explode, with different outlets and opportunities to share even more about lives, businesses, trends, etc. Facebook and Twitter rose to become the two behemoths of the electronic oversharing trend.

I initially resisted Facebook; I found it silly and inane. Who cares what someone had for dinner tonight? Who cares if someone had a rude barista at Starbucks mess up their order? Who cares that you aren’t talking to so-and-so because they “know why”?

Well, actually, the last one is a reason Facebook draws people in; we love that unexpected drama or news. A friend posts an ultrasound showing they are expecting, a child has an unfortunate tumble at the playground and now proudly wears a cast. The varieties of life inevitability pull you in and get you hooked.

After I broke down and joined, I found myself checking Facebook many times a day, wanting to see what news I would learn about people. I then found myself feeling like I had to “like” a friend’s photo, or they might think I didn’t care, I found myself searching friends of my friends profiles to snoop on their photos, their lives.

It started to take up more of my day, and seeing that it was essentially a mindless waste of time, I used this Lenten season to make myself take a break. It wasn’t easy, but after the first week, I really didn’t miss it. By the time Easter came, I really didn’t want to go back to it, but I did, bit by bit eventually, and then within a few weeks right back where I left off.

My Facebook usage was further compounded by my mom’s group deciding to start a private group on Facebook and move from our existing Meetup group. *Sigh* OK, I’ll keep using it since I won’t know what’s going on in the group otherwise.

Things were OK until the summer. Then it started. The political posts. OK, that’s fine, I have friends of all types of persuasions, hell, I lived in deep blue Chicago for 12 years masquerading as a RINO, I can dig it.

Then the posts became more frequent and furious, littering up my newsfeed. Memes, links, forwards from campaigns, special interest groups, hyper-partisan media sites, etc. I noticed a pattern within replies and comments; someone who disagreed would be shouted down, disregarded and told to read their biased news source as the truth. More and more people started doing it as well; it built up as the election got closer and closer. Blatant hypocrisy existed in the comments, basically summed up as “if you don’t agree with me, you cray!” Ugh, really?

I’m not the type of person to “defriend” someone because they have political views that are different from mine, but I did find the “hide” button extremely handy in a few instances. I found that I could tolerate Facebook friends much better if I just separated them from their politics and focused on all of the good things I did like about them.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want people to identify me solely by my political views, I want them to look at me as a complete person, flaws and all, and judge me that way. Politics is a touchy, touchy matter in our country, half feels one way, and half lean toward the other. I found myself dreading Facebook in the mornings and seeing a collection of rants, snark and nastiness.

Please understand me, I am a staunch believer in the First Amendment, I believe we all have a right to our opinion and to say what we want to say, regardless if it is popular or politically correct. I will respect and support your opinion and that right to my death.

What I don’t support or respect is the petty, nasty, hide-behind-the-computer ugly commentary that social media has spawned. I see things that people post that they would never, ever say to another person face-to-face. It’s really easy to hide behind a Facebook wall and spout off your unvarnished feelings and opinions without any regard or thought to those who might not agree with you.

Based on what I was seeing on Facebook, I knew it would be best to just avoid it on Election Day and the days after. I have a bit of a temper myself, and I feel that exercising self-control and tact was the ideal way to deal with it. After all, I’m dealing with those who seem to lack the basic manners and courtesy I was brought up with, so why bother?

The past few days, post-election, I’ve been thinking about it more and more and why it bothers me so much. There’s Beyonce’s “Take that, Mitches!” taunt, Donald Trump’s calls to revolt and hearing that two trends on Twitter the night our president gave his re-election speech were #f*ckwhitepeople and #votewhite.

Is this an underlying trend of our society? Is this a contributor to the hard division lines and lack of intelligent discourse in our country? Is social media turning us into thoughtless, ignorant, ill-mannered idiots? Are people even capable of having an intelligent debate or discussion of the issues without resorting to “Save Big Bird LOL!” or “You didn’t build that!”? I fear not. This form of lazy, emotion-driven, sneering, snarkiness seems to be more and more prevalent in our younger generations who have essentially grown up with social media forming their lives.

And quite frankly, this is yet another area that females seem to excel at more than men. Women make up a vast majority of social media users and tend to respond and react based on emotion. We lament the “mean girls” and “queen bees” tormenting and bullying our daughters, but then we go right ahead and do the same thing on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds to each other.

Oh, I know, I’m being sexist now, aren’t I? But I won’t lie, there have been several times I’ve felt my temper rise, the hot flush of anger and outrage boiling, wanting to say exactly what I thought, pointing out the obvious fallacies in arguments, the blatant hypocrisy of rushing to label someone based on their views, while expressing how tolerant and open-minded they are. But in the end, I didn’t. Why is that?

Because at the end of the day, I don’t want to become what they are; petty, snarky, small-minded, reactionaries. Lacking the ability to reason, debate and put together a cohesive argument for their opinion without resorting to Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher talking points.

Because I still feel that if I can stay out of the gutter, if I can set a positive example for my kids, I can stop the further breakdown in basic manners, intelligent thought, debate and discourse that these social media monsters have created.

Because, to put it bluntly, I don’t want to be responsible for raising a generation of assholes who have contempt for differing opinions, lack of basic writing skills, devoid of logical, rational thought, tact and self-control, who communicate in rapid, emotion-driven nastiness and ugly snark in a 140-word format.

So there it is, my name for the kids behind the Gen Yers – Generation A. I’d like to think we aren’t headed down this path, but unless we start taking a hard look at ourselves and the type of communication we are projecting and promoting in our lives, including our Facebook walls, our blogs, and our Twitter feeds, we’re creating the little trolls of tomorrow.