In this day and age of hyper-individualism, entitlement and political correctness, where the itch to please an audience drives ordinary people to do extreme things, to find or create content and share regardless of taste – often times going for the more shocking, where people think the world owes them shit even without working for it, and where people are getting offended by just about anything. It’s so easy to blame social media as the convenient enabler of all the drama. In part, yes, but it didn’t start there … it all started from upbringing and lack of discipline … and in part just plain old inborn personality. For this article, I’m not going to focus on the last two bits, what’s done is done, the Baby Boomers has opened Pandora’s box (oops!) … they have their reasons. What I’m going to talk about is the part where individuals have control – their social media interaction.
Same Old Story
Social media is the product of all the connected voices exercising their freedom as an individual. The abundance of tools and technology available today enables it to exist. It’s nothing new, it existed when humans came into being. It was simply in a different medium, and content got circulated much much slower. Today, thanks to technology, content is shared in real-time even as events unfold. And anyone who is connected to the Internet can choose to participate.
Content can be anything and is everything – art, thoughts, commerce, propaganda, industry, … it’s the human experience, it’s life documented in the digital world. It is out there for anyone to tap into and assimilate for one’s own benefit and enjoyment. Life is broad, and there’s bound to be things you won’t like, and surely, you can expect some people who won’t like your own content for whatever reason. To be a part of social media means you’ll have to accept this fact, “not everyone can get along.” You’ll just have to find your own circle and tune to the right social media streams … the ones that speaks to you. You have to go out there, so to speak, and explore.
Even Playing Field
The thing is, we want everyone to have a voice. Everyone should be able to speak their mind however they damn please, in as much as everyone have the right to live their life. The last thing we need is a resurgence of an elitist society. Simply because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to speak their mind. People should be allowed to express themselves without being censored because you don’t want your fragile feelings to get hurt. Freedom of speech is absolute, and it should be absolute, people shouldn’t nitpick to their liking … that is control. We have to have common sense and think about context when we consume content. Social media platforms often provide mechanisms to filter content. People should take advantage of these tools to filter out the noise and cut through the muck in order to have a more pleasant experience.
The last thing we need is a resurgence of an elitist society.
Individuals should also take personal responsibility of their content and privacy. There is absolutely no rule (legally speaking) in social media that requires people to divulge private and sensitive information. Social media platforms are websites run by private companies, they are not the government. You have no obligation to disclose anything. Don’t like their terms? Go find another site. Learn the lesson of MySpace, users are in control not the service provider. “I’ve got nothing to hide (so I’m going to share everything in my life)” is stupid and irresponsible. Your privacy is only as good as how you want it to be. If you lay out all your life for the world to see, don’t be surprised if you got scammed, impersonated, or taken advantaged of. Sharing “everything” is like giving bad people hints on how to control your personal accounts. You have the power to control your private information. There’s nothing we can do about certain things, like public records, personal information shared to the public by legitimate sources, e.g. copyright applications.
But unsolicited distribution of your curriculum vitae to the public? For what, bragging rights? Posting all your family photos in a public photo sharing site? For what? Posting your Driver’s License on your timeline? Why? Sharing digitized legal documents online? Why? People may have legitimate reasons and perhaps to them it’s not a big deal … but all too often it’s an impulsive reaction without forethought or common sense. The bottom line is, it is possible to enrich your presence in social media without having to compromise your privacy (and security) … all you need is common sense. Remember, once you release information to the internet … it is almost impossible to get rid of it … it will stay there for as long as the Internet exists.
Your privacy is only as good as how you want it to be.
Social Media Is a Good Thing
Social media is a good thing. We can all benefit from it, and we have, to name a few: it enables us to keep in contact with loved ones wherever they are in the world (in a cost-effective way), reduce the cost of communication (long distance), a very effective way to “rally the troops” – for whatever causes or agenda (concerts, events, political rallies, festivities, parties, etc.), help raise awareness on anything, aide philanthropic pursuits, educate, spread democracy, public opinion – society’s other check and balance, spreading the news and updates on current events, fund charities, support careers and projects, launch careers, provide instant entertainment, create a forum for debates, and connect consumers and producers – be it government services, entertainment, industry, or commerce.
Take advantage of it, use it for your benefit. Example: let’s say, in entertainment – for those who are in the entertainment business to make money – wouldn’t it be better to hear what the consumers want to see instead of just rolling the dice and hope people will like it? For manufacturing, instead of hiring a focus group to figure out what sells and what won’t, wouldn’t it be better to go directly to the consumers and ask them what they want? Old school marketing do this all the time – hand out mail-in surveys and questionnaires.
Start The Change In You
Let face it, social media has helped improve the human condition a great deal. It’s unfortunate that many people tend to have this knee jerk reaction when they encounter things they strongly dislike – e.g. harsh comments. For some people, when they get hurt or strongly disagree, it’s easier to retaliate and insult instead of handling the situation like an adult. And I do agree, there are a lot of nuisance out there. Social media is where everyone converge, young and old. It’s like babysitting the whole world. Should an adult go to the level of an eight-year old because you got pissed? You sure can. But isn’t it better to just ignore? Unless of course, if you try reasoning and all you get back are nasty insults … in which case, you do the right thing, you block them. As humans, we have to accommodate and expect a certain amount of disagreement with other people … this is Earth not utopia. We’re not perfect … none of us are. Calling people you disagree with “troll”, “idiot”, “stupid”, “bigot”, “racist” … or whatever harsh words you can muster … in an attempt to retaliate and hurt them, will only fuel the fire and not fix the situation. What’s worse, kids (and adults) will read what you wrote and think it’s the right thing to do. And before you know it, people are insulting each other in the slightest trivial disagreements using the colorful words you just wrote … and it becomes a cycle. And then we complain people are attacking each other. If you don’t want to hear what the other is saying, “mute” them … and if they are really bothering you, block them.
What Would Madonna Do?
Don’t get discouraged and abandon social media because a few brats hurt your feelings. Like, say, if you’re a celebrity and you just leave it because you were shocked after reading comments, you’re denying your fans – who pretty much are responsible for your career – the experience and loyalty they deserve in return. Celebrities don’t have to share personal stuff, one can share only information related to ones’ career and projects – treat it like a business. Heck, hire a personal assistant (which can be someone in your payroll or a family member who works for free). There are no rules! If you want to open up your life to everyone, do it! Just remember there those who are jealous, like to compete, troubled stalkers, or simply want your attention. Filter your junk. In this day and age, if you’re a public figure, chances are … your information is in the public domain already. Find a way to manage it. Ask yourself, “What would Madonna do?” And speaking of, in her early social media days, she said she will never use Twitter because of all the things she heard. She created her account for the MDNA album and tour, and said it was only going to be temporary for the duration of the project, but alas, she got hooked. She realize it’s potential. And now, she’s using social media to tell her story her way. She’s got all sorts of “haters” but she’s learned to ignore that, because it’s just part of life. And that’s why she’s great! … but I digress.
Filter your junk.
Your Control Buttons: Follow, Like, Reply, Mute, Block
Cyber bullying … shouldn’t be a problem at all if people just learn block cyber bullies. Cut them off completely if they are bringing so much negativity to your experience. It’s cyberspace … you have the power to cut them off or even turn off your device! Unless of course, you like to play victim. That’s a whole different story.
Which leads me to this last bit. Take responsibility of your experience. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t let it control you. You control it! You will never hear about devices badgering and harassing people about a social media update they don’t like – not yet, at least (#robotics). No! It’s your fingers who turn the device’s power on, tap the keys or swipe the screen, and read the damn post! Each person in social media has the power to mold their experience any way they want. It’s just a matter of tapping the right buttons – follow, like, reply, mute, or block. It’s that simple. Often times, we let words get under our skin … if you can’t approach it civilly (or they can’t), then remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes people can be reasoned with … and it’s great to have a healthy debate because it expands our mind … if not, block ‘em. If you don’t like a photo of you taken in a public place, don’t look at it, avoid it … don’t go Googling for shit and cry what you find. Some things are beyond your control – even legally speaking. In a previous article, “Life Made Easier – Taming Social Media“, I pointed out that there are over three billion people on this planet with Internet access, that’s a lot of potential social media participants. And the human brain has been theorized to only retain a maximum of two hundred meaningful relationships. So unless you’re in social media to do business or politics … you don’t need a circle of more than two hundred people. So toss the trouts back in the water and go fish! It’s like watching television, something offends you? Change the channel! Don’t sit their and continue to watch and feel miserable. Filter the junk you receive.
So toss the trouts back in the water and go fish!
Social media is great! It’s humanity’s collective consciousness. And it is up to you, the user, to take control of the garbage you put out and the garbage you take in, to realize the experience you desire. Just like poverty, greed, social classes, and tax … for as long as humans exist so shall people who can never get along. So surround yourself with like-minded individuals, or be daring and explore but be prepared to encounter shit. Use social media to your advantage. If your experience sucks, you can only blame yourself for it.