I’m one of those people who is constantly on Facebook. I get bored, grab my phone, and check what my friends, family, classmates, and former coworkers and bosses are up to. I scroll through posts of those close to me and that of acquaintances, and read their and strangers comments and thoughts and beliefs. I check out news, magazine, and tv show pages and sometimes engage in dialogue, and sometimes just read others’ comments. Through this constant connection to what people read, think and believe I find that blogs, news sources, and user comments are growing progressively harsher, meaner, more alienating, and feeding into an “Us vs. Them” mentality and society. This goes with everything! From activism to academia to news to even television and movies, we are split.
As a result, I did what so many friends and family told me I couldn’t: I deactivated my account. I’m tired. I’m tired of reading that because I’m this or that because someone else is this or that. I can’t stand reading that some people do not belong in a certain activist movement, or that I am “stupid” for following a certain ideology. I am tired of this gap between people. The world is turning into large cliques, and if you want “in” to a certain clique you have to fight your way in. It’s high school all over again.
I’m especially tired of memes and articles, because for the most part they are all WRONG. All it takes is a quick Google search to see if something is true or not, but people lack the desire to do so, and then spread lies. And if that person is told by someone, “Hey, this isn’t true”, the person in question gets defensive, and the response, “Oh, but I agree with the sentiment” is used. C’mon, people, you can agree with a sentiment, so how about posting a REAL article or meme. You’re spreading false information, that catches like wildfire, and sometimes has real repercussions. Example: When the Boston bombers were sought after I read the Facebook page “Binders Full of Women” post “up to the minute information.” The content creator posted that a missing young man was the bomber. I asked him to retract the post until all the information was in. I was called a cunt, a bitch, was told I’m “suspicious”, and people berated me for hours. Then, the next day we all found out it was not this young, still missing (a few months later his body was found in a river or lake), young Indian man, who was vilified because people jumped on the bandwagon, he so happens to have brown skin, and everyone wanted immediate information, refused to fact-check, and then personally attacked the ONLY person who asked for the page creator to take down the post because of lack of information. This is horrendous. This poor young man was vilified, his family forced to read “news” article and spread lies that he is a suspected terrorist. It reminds me of a Kurt Vonnegut quote where he stated that if you die on television you will not have died in vain, for you entertained the masses.
The ramifications of our believing false information, and then using excuses like, “Oh, I agree with the sentiment” is dangerous. We are turning into a society that doesn’t critically think, and will then fall for anything put forth. We are letting ourselves be taken advantage of. If you post political or social commentary, and don’t fact-check, you are actually doing the absolute reverse of what your intention is- you are creating a more dangerous society filled with people lacking ambition to strive towards truth. When we don’t do this we assure that those who manipulate information for their own gain stay in control.
I just walked for my graduation from Prescott College, getting a Masters degree in Social justice and Human Rights. I decided to pursue this because of my and my families (horrific) history of human and civil rights abuses against us, the work I did through AmeriCorps, and stories told to me by those around me. I care for people so much, and am doing what I can to the best of my ability to support my family, friends, and those around me. As part of my program I learned about the history of social movements throughout the United States, and the southern hemisphere. This knowledge brings understanding into why and how we got to where we are today in the country and world. There has always been “Us vs. Them” because those with privilege- white privilege, sex privilege, class privilege, etc.- will either start or join a movement and alienate those who are directly affected. This happened in the Women’s Rights Movement of the 60s and 70s, when white, college educated women alienated women of lower income brackets and women of color. This happened in suffrage movement when white, educated women with high income alienated women of color and those without money. I’m not denying this history, nor am I denying the fact that those with privilege- again, sex, white, class, etc- tries to force their ideals onto those directly affected, and they may not take into account the strengths and movement building that others are doing, but I feel like this “Us vs Them” mentality is stronger, more pronounced, and there is no end in sight.
Whereas in the past people learned by having meetings, talking in person, taking the time to really listen to each other and have that human dialogue and interaction, today we are discussing through the internet. Today we are getting offended because we don’t know tone, we don’t know intention, we are so able to rapidly respond without taking a moment to think and look at the emotion in the other persons face. To feed off the persons energy and know what their intentions are, and our own intentions, and learn from each other in this deeply personal way that has created revolutions, created understanding across cultures. This has made it so that small groups of people were able to change society and the world. This made it so that small groups of people were able to band together against those who try to drive us apart. Instead, today, we are separating ourselves from each other, banning people from “our” movements because they do not look or act like us, and they don’t understand what that group of people are going through. But how are they supposed to understand if we don’t sit down together and discuss and talk and learn and educate each other in a human, civil, compassionate way? That isn’t done through the internet, that’s done through human interaction. We are using the tools of the oppressors to try and liberate ourselves, and then wonder why we are so deeply divided and not advancing.
Social media can be great. Revolutions were carried out by Twitter. When we find out about injustice people band together, demand change, and there are those moments where it works. Information spreads like wildfire, and along with the bad there is great good. We just need to work on our compassion, empathy, and kindness, and not forget that on the other side of your typed words are people who have feelings, their own personal history, and they also want to connect with other people. We all just want to feel connected, and we are, but we need to remember to keep the human aspects interaction and how deeply important it is to creating a more beautiful, kind world.