Social Media, Kids, and Constant Outrage

The outrage, arguments, trolling, and sub tweets on social media is at an all-time high. Whether the topic is politics, religion, technology, culture, sports, etc. you can find people entrenched in their camps and lobbing water balloons indirectly or an outright firehouse at other people whom they disagree with. Sadly, many of us are often on the outside looking in. We scroll through our Facebook or Twitter feed seeing these interactions and quickly forming an opinion and harboring quick seconds of minute outrage towards that person. Often, if we really look inside, these topics don’t even affect our day-to-day. Sure, we can always justify why we look at our unfiltered timelines but at the end of the day we too often care and form opinions only because we see the post.

I was reminded of this human tendency today when I was dropping off my son, Jax, at daycare. I set him on the ground and went and picked up a toy for him to play with. Immediately, another kid who was playing with his own toy immediately started crying and wanting the toy I gave Jax. The only reason he wanted this toy was because it was now in his attention and he wanted it now.

With social media we generally only care about many issues because we see them. Or, to maybe better say it, we may care about certain issues but we are outraged when we see them on our feed in their bite-sized, out of context, hyperbolic state. Remember, the social media machine wants you to be outraged. They control what you see. A post that elicits an emotion will perform better. Tweeters, Facebookers, Instagrammers all know this. Their post has to be witty, taking sides, or evoking an emotion to be seen.

Even if you are not one that spends an hour scrolling through timelines to catch up” but limit yourself to five minute increments throughout the day you are still wiring your brain to become outraged at what you see on your timeline. Every piece of information is firing up our neurons in our brain to care, form an instant and fleeting opinion, and move on.

I am constantly trying to better my social media habits. I think over the years I’ve become less consumed by what’s being posted but it still affects me. I could probably quit social media altogether but I still do find some value in it. My goal is to limit the negative interaction that I see and try to use social media in positive and helpful ways. Here are some things that I do that I’ve found helpful for me:

  • Heavy use of filters for Twitter. I use Tweetbot for my Twitter consumption but most any app will do this. If you look at my long list of mutes you will see that I mute many many topics and people. Why? Because at the end of the day many of these topics or keywords do not aid in a positive outlook on life. Yes, some of these topics are important and I do need to think through them but Twitter is not the place I should be consuming the information and opinions from. I wrote a post on this a year and a half ago titled, Keep Twitter a Happy Place,” where I outline more specifically how I do this.
  • Post most of my fleeting thoughts and hot takes” in my journaling app, Day One. Most of my thoughts and opinions do not need to be public for people to read and respond to. Often, they are sarcastic and bitter, which, yes, I do need to work on but definitely posting them to social media is not the place. Instead I will write the tweet” and send it to my Day One journal. Safe, secure, and private. If I can’t do this then I need to ask the question, why do I feel the need to post this for the world to see? I think this says something more about us and our righteous indignation.
  • Take social media apps off of my home screen. I’ve done this for awhile and find it really useful. I took Facebook off my phone completely and leave Twitter buried in a folder on my phone. It’s available when I actively choose to open it. When I am bored and I open up my phone it is not staring at me and forming the muscle memory to automatically tap the app. I found since doing this awhile ago I will actually go days without opening Twitter because it is out of sight and out of mind.
  • Use another app to post thoughts to social media. Personally, I write most of my tweets in the app Drafts. I do the same with email. The goal of this process is to write what I want to put out there without being sucked into the black hole of Twitter. If I want to Tweet I can do so without seeing what everyone else is doing. This also gives me time to pause and think do I really need to post this right here, right now.
  • Form my own personal rules for what I post on social media. I’ve been doing this for years and I can honestly say that there are very few posts that I regret sharing with the world.

Personal Rules for Social Media

  1. Ask myself - do I need to be the one to say this? Is it best in a tweet or post on Facebook? Why do I feel the need to say my opinion?
  2. Nothing controversial unless it has to do with my love of Cardinals baseball. Honestly, this means I tweet about 75% less than I would if I didn’t have this rule for myself. Remember, when you post something on Twitter or Facebook all context is thrown out the window. No matter what I’ve said or written in the past really matters on social media. The context is only that post and people will respond only to that post.
  3. No politics. I mute almost everything related to politics. Twitter is not the place to discuss or form opinions.
  4. Does this build up love of neighbor? If I hesitate at this question then I probably shouldn’t post it.
  5. Is this post a vague jab at someone else? If yes, then do I have a way to contact them directly? Also if yes, why do I not feel that I feel I can’t say their name in the post? If I don’t feel I can do this then I probably shouldn’t make the post.
  6. No trite encouragements. This one may seem a little odd but personally these types of tweet from most people seem to be feel good” or at worse platform building” type of tweets.
  7. Create lists for people and topics that I do not need to see constantly. When I create a list this means I do not have to follow these people or see them on my timeline. I choose the time to see what others are posted. This is very limited but sometimes it is helpful to see what others are thinking but having a Twitter list it allows me to segment this in my social media usage.
  8. Keep the people I follow around 300 or under. This is very arbitrary but whenever I follow someone I try to unfollow another person. This keeps my Twitter timeline fairly focused and with the addition of my mutes I can honestly say I am rarely outraged on Twitter. I only see what I want to see.

To conclude, yes, there are many many people who post very helpful thoughts, opinions, and information on Twitter. These are the people I try to follow. I use RSS to keep up with information and specifically follow the writings I want to follow. It takes work, but there are ways to use social media without the constant barrage of useless information that many are accustomed to.

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May 8, 2019