It’s hard not to take everything we see on Facebook at face value. Often, a social network is the only place we interact with an old co-worker, distant relative, former classmate or less-than-close friend — and this means only experiencing a certain projection of who they are. As I was scrolling my FB newsfeed yesterday in the post-Grammys aftermath, I saw so much passive-aggressive anger in action — posts directed at no one and everyone at the same time, antagonizing rants about how much “people” should stop caring or should care more about an awards show. This was just one example of a major cultural event that forces people to throw mean words out into the world — the recent Super Bowl also comes to mind — but it is something that happens every day.
Humans on the Internet are an exhausting bunch. Undeserved traffic tickets, long wait times at doctor’s offices, slow-moving traffic, interactions with rude people in public spaces, bosses who suck, employees who suck, unreasonable teachers/parents, unreasonable expectations from partners, children who behave badly, physical wounds and other health problems, bad haircuts, car troubles, diet troubles, and, in general, many of us whining and complaining about the “good ol’ days” before all of this technology that partially makes us suck existed. These are all things that manifest daily on social networks, producing a large, amorphous blob of collectively shitty experiences.
As Valentine’s Day creeps up, I wonder: Are the hateful, complaint-saturated things we scream out into the ether for everyone to hear really how we want to be portrayed? What if we all took a deep breath and started posted loving, caring and concerning thoughts for each other in these times when we head angrily to our keyboards to vent?
Yesterday, a friend unintentionally held a mirror up to my own face, exposing my often-extreme negativity. From reading my writing or following me on any of many social networks, it is easy to see all of the things that I genuinely dislike, or, to use a harsher term, hate: the patriarchy, gentrification, costumed/themed 5K runs, venues that aren’t all-ages, pub crawls, cultural appropriation, Kanye West’s behavior, classism, coffee cups, Mayor Hancock, my ex-boyfriend — the list goes on. And while I thought I was balancing all of the public projections of my aversions with conversations about things I truly love, it made me realize that our negativity is often only what people see and experience, especially in a one-dimensional world of calculated interaction like the Internet.
What if we all took a moment to do a brief scan of, say, our last week of social networking posts and looked — I mean really looked — at what we were putting out there for the world to see? From my own observations, it is clear that negative posts on social networks often gain the most traction. If I post something as simple as “I can't wait to go to the gym and workout to this song!” and link to a video of Cathy Dennis's "Touch Me (All Night Long,)," it might get five likes (which also might be because I do not have the best taste in music). But if I post an article about how Denver’s rents are rising, there will be a guaranteed conversation explosion, a thread that is dozens of comments long, often ending in people who don’t know each other outside of this tiny string of back-and-forths hurling insults at each other for days.
It’s not our fault as humans that we like mean stuff — often, these negative things are conversation-starters about events and situations we need to be talking about. We can’t love everything all the time, or change would never happen. For me, my anger often comes from a desire to deal head-on with injustice. I don’t sit idly by and let the world happen; I try to use my platforms as a writer and the audience of a combined 2000+ “friends” I have on Facebook and Twitter to call attention to people/places/events/things that matter. But how easily we throw around the word “hate” frightens me. The way in which we feel so comfortable eviscerating our fellow humans over the simple fact that we disagree is disheartening. And I’m not even talking about troll behavior or the bowels of a comments section — I’m talking about everyday posts, passive-aggressive remarks and comment wars that happen between otherwise civilized people.
As the trivial holiday of love and commerce approaches, I’m going to make an active effort to take the hate down a notch. If someone posts something negative on Facebook that I don’t want to see, I’ll just hide it — you know, instead of coming up with a back-stabby, thinly-veiled counter-post that expresses why I am so annoyed that a certain someone only posts about their health issues or horrible boss or whatever the case may be. Maybe I will go so far as to say something nice to that person and directly counteract the thought of being bothered in the first place. Reframing what we say, how we say it and how we choose to let our thoughts flow and manifest about a person can be pretty powerful. Happy early Valentine’s Day, from Bree Davies and the Internet.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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