Forum: Reliance on social media leads to antisocial outcomes

The interaction via phones and screens is easily abused and limits the context of a face-to-face talk.

Sid Roberts, mayor of Stanwood

Sid Roberts, mayor of Stanwood

By Sid Roberts / Herald Forum

We get much of our informa0on and news today from sensational social media and online news outlets. Frequently this type of communica0on is effective only in terms of the perception it projects. The perception seems to be primary. The facts seem to be only of secondary importance.

My own thought is that this situation isn’t for the better. Factual and honest news simply can’t compete with sensational media and instant perceptions. There was a time when one could trust most of the news outlets, and the sources for news were typically reliable. There were also ethical standards and practices. Today, not so much.

While there is some good in social media, this medium is driving many false narratives and is doing much damage in our world. For instance, the attack on our nation’s capital on Jan. 6 2021; while nestled in the hubris of the former president, it was obviously fueled by the falsity on social media. Those who aren’t critical thinkers seem to be easily fooled.

Instead of technology helping us socialize, the narrative has often become a perception-driven life. People work hard at managing this artificial online persona. It seems to be all that matters. The selfie photo is an example of how distorted and self-focused social media has become.

While people have posed for photos since photography began, the selfie is a relatively new animal. Often the self-initiated photo is taken with the goal that seems intended only on showing the subject in a happy and perfect situa0on. The perception portrayed seems to be all that matters.

Today, instead of talking with people face to face, often social media is the preferred communication tool. It might be called media, but it isn’t social in the good sense of the word. I have found that people are much more likely to trash you on social media, or even by email, than if you talk to them face to face. Most of these so called “Facebook Friends” aren’t your friends at all.

Another problem is that bullying is rampant on social media. Many keyboard warriors, those living in an echo chamber, thrive on misinformation and ruthlessly assault those whom they don’t agree with or see as vulnerable to attack. The end game is to discredit their victims, and social media is often the tool. These internet titans use social media to bully because it is much easier to mislead and control the narrative. Like the tabloids at the grocery store, their world is fake news and attention seems to be the desired outcome.

For young brains, the completion, and the perception of the perfect person on social media has warped the developing mind and young people’s self-esteem. There is no way a young girl, for instance, can be pretty enough for social media. Plus, there is the deep-fake problem that is ruining lives. More on that in another essay.

Somehow, we were created to communicate person to person. We are best when we listen and make eye contact and respect the voices of others. We are also best when we use our senses.

Voice intonation, context and body language all matter. People want to be heard and that can’t be done by engaging in a sensational volley on social media. I think we have lost sight of how to honestly communicate. Now, it seems that only perceptions matter.

Next time you have an issue of disagreement or need to communicate with someone, do the old-fashioned thing, and sit down with them, and talk to them face to face. I think you will be rewarded with something more truthful and may become closer to that person in the process.

Friendship and relationships take work, and that is more difficult than a “friend” request on Facebook. People yearn to be truly heard and that often can’t happen on perception-driven social media.

Sid Roberts is a member of the Stanwood City Council and mayor.

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