I really dislike social media. I have long seen it as a giant time-suck that retards human progress by squeezing out attention that might otherwise be paid to far more worthwhile pursuits. But a million other things play that role as well, so I usually push that criticism aside as a symptom of my own irritation. I've begun to notice that the political polarization that people are always talking about is far more prominent on my Facebook feed that it is in my actual life. And that's not to say that my own feed has people arguing with each other: like most everyone else, I live in a bubble where opinions are widely shared. I mean that the pitch of hysteria that has arisen in response to every perceived political crisis takes the form of telling people who mostly agree with you how terrible those other people are. And no, I'm not talking about Trump supporters. To my knowledge, I literally have one on my feed.
Recently a friend posted that he was getting "queasy" about the bout of "shaming" he has been seeing on Facebook. I posted a reply that quickly turned into a rant. But in the end, I think it was a pretty good rant. So here it is:
I am so far beyond queasy. I don't give a shit about people having different views from me, but I care a lot about people acting like assholes. And social media is, unfortunately, a bit of an asshole factory. It turns legitimate disagreements that might be good-natured in real life into egotistical pissing matches.
For some reason, a disagreeable view expressed in a short, declarative print statement tends to push a person's buttons more than it might if encountered some other way. (I make this generalization not only because I've seen these discussion play out online, but even more so because I myself experience this reaction personally all the time.) My basic objection to social media discourse is that, in my experience, respect for the autonomy of others is in very short supply. Those with different views are often very quickly minimized as being deficient in some way rather than treated as intelligent individuals who have reached a different conclusion. (How often, for example, do you see people ask legitimate questions?)
I think that the way that social media is constructed allows everyone to think of their feed as their own personal space, so that views of which a person does not approve can trigger an emotional reaction that sees a threat to personal sovereignty and integrity. That is understandable, but it is rooted in an interpretation that isn't actually true: social media is really a commons constructed from a technology that allows us to *feel* like it is personal property. (Well, actually it's not a commons either, but the property of a giant corporation. But that's not the perspective I'm taking right now.) Since this cross-current of psycho-social forces is in the very nature of social media, I don't see any way that it can change. I just need to get off of it. People do sometimes, you know!