Reflecting on social media

Perhaps 2021 is the year for some social media resolutions

We’re coming to the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been big on them, but if there’s ever a year to have some goals to try and make next year better, it’s 2021. Earlier this week, my colleague, Jennifer, mentioned her ongoing concerns about the negative effects of social media on our lives and on society in general. And I’m persuaded by her apprehensions, perhaps some resolutions about social media use are a good place to start.

I don’t know what your particular social media sins are, but I’ve got a list of my own a mile long. Here’s a few possible resolutions I’m considering, perhaps they’ll resonate with you too.  

  1. Avoid showcasing and social media pile-ons, even for just causes.  

I read a thought provoking piece in Discourse where Brandon Warmke and Justin Tosi expand on their idea of moral grandstanding, taking a moral position to boost your own status, to discuss the act of showcasing.    

Showcasers use others by conscripting them into a public display designed to show off the moral qualities of the grandstander. Just as a salesman might use a display model to show off the qualities of his product, showcasers use other people to show off their superior moral qualities.

If you’ve ever tried to call attention to someone’s Twitter sins, it’s worth considering if you might be a showcaser and whether or not that’s a healthy way to engage people who you think are in the wrong.  

  1. Make conscious decisions about what parts of my life belong on social media and what experiences and ideas are degraded by the engaging in them through social media.  

I thought about this a lot this summer as I saw various types of political signaling happening across my social media feed on a wide variety of important issues. Everywhere I looked there were social media black outs, long posts pleading the case for actions in response to COVID-19, banners, and memes for every position under the sun.  

On the one hand, I was moved by many expressions of solidarity that I saw on issues that mattered to me. On the other hand, I saw nearly all of them quickly devolve into fights in the comment threads that didn’t seem to help anyone on either side. All of it made me more cautious about my activism in that space and desire to think carefully about my motives and the outcomes I desired before engaging in political action on social media.  

  1. Engage in more face to face than Facebook to Facebook conversation.  

It’s pretty cliché at this point to say that in 2021 we want to get out from behind our screens and engage with people in the real world. However, coming out of socially distance life, I think it could be quite tempting to retreat to the safety and simplicity of the way social media flattens our perceptions of others. We might be inclined to feel safer scrolling, than engaging outside of our physical and ideological bubbles in the real world.  

Photo by Yingyaipumi on Adobe Stock