Thursday, February 09, 2017

Staying Sane Online In the Age of Trump

In 1966, Robert F. Kennedy once quoted a Chinese curse saying
There is a Chinese curse which says “May he live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times.
It's unknown whether this was actually an ancient Chinese saying or if it was just something misinterpreted or just plain made up (#fakeNews!), but it's hard to argue that we're not living in "interesting times" right now.  And there's no more proof of it than looking at Facebook and Twitter.  The cesspool of partisan bickering gets deeper and deeper, and it's driving wedges between friends and families.  Relationships are suffering, if not downright being destroyed. We're becoming a more divided country each and every day.

It doesn't really matter who started it, or who's at fault. Maybe it makes YOU feel better, but someone is going to disagree, and it doesn't solve the problem.  That train long left the station, and everybody has their hands dirty to some degree.  Blaming others isn't going to fix the problem.

What we can do is cut down on the partisan vitriol and instead try to better understand the perspective of the other side. Don't unfriend people who you disagree with; instead, block the purveyors of the discord.  You know what I'm talking about:  it's those commentary sites that push all of the negativity and spread #fakeNews.

Last week, while I was busy shutting off all of the recruiting coverage on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I also took a whack at all of the partisan sites that kept popping up at the same time. It's super-easy to do, and days later, I'm amazed at how much cleaner and happier my Twitter and Facebook experience is.  I didn't unfriend or unfollow any people; the blocks purely shut down posts by "True Patriots" or "Uncaring Conservatives" or whatever.  How did I do this?

On Facebook, in the upper left of each post is a little arrow.  Click that, and you'll get a menu that allows you to Hide the source of these posts.
Note I didn't block or unfriend "Chris", I blocked Milo, an editor with Breitbart. Free speech purists would say that I'm censoring him, but that's not exactly true. I'm using my free choice to not listen to him, but I'm not preventing anybody else from reading him. He has a right to say what he thinks; I'm simply exercising my right to reject him unfiltered based on what he stands for.

In Twitter, it's even easier. When you come across someone who's HOTTAKES raise your blood pressure, just mute them by clicking on the "gear" icon and selecting "Mute".  The best part is that if anybody you follow decides to retweet the person you muted, you don't see it either.
Does this open me up to only seeing one side of the debate? Absolutely...but it's no worse than someone who only watches Fox News or MSNBC on TV. And I'm purposely not blocking legitimate news sources that have a bent that I disagree with; just the commentators who simply troll the public for a reaction.

Does it work? I can speak after a week of this that it absolutely does.  My "social media" experience is so much more pleasant than it's been in quite some time.  I'm still seeing pictures of kids and dogs; I'm still seeing Tasty videos and cool vacation pictures. I'm still getting a lot of news as well.

I'm just not seeing nearly the amount of crap that I was seeing...and I didn't have to take a Facebook or Twitter vacation to do it.

Or unfriend good people that I disagree with politically.

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