One click and you’re history ~ how social media makes us more isolated and intolerant.

One click and you’re history ~ how social media makes us more isolated and intolerant.

You know the drill.

Someone has hurt you. These days it’s just as likely to be someone on a social media network as it is to be someone in real life whom you see face to face. There’s a reason for this.

I love social media. There’s a better chance of finding your tribe than simple geography allows. There’s quite simply MILLIONS of people out there. You can refine your basic parameters and hey presto, instant social circle.

Except for one thing. Most of them will be hundreds if not thousands of miles away. You see them only by the words they write. Or by the statuses they post on Facebook. Or by their blogs. A few you progress to chatting with on messaging facilities. Even fewer, on Skype. Some you talk to on the phone. A very small number you end up meeting face to face. My goodness, but this is a wonderful feeling. I have had coffee with some chums, stayed with a few others, chinked glasses in cocktail bars with one or two, given city tours to others. It’s a good feeling.

But there is a downside. People are not cardboard cut-outs, acting out my fantasies (steady, the Buffs!) but real people with lives, thoughts, feelings of their own. They think, live and believe things that are quite different to the way I do. Sometimes I see what friends post on Facebook and Twitter and I recoil in shock. Truly. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting atrocity, I saw things that made me shake. People I believe to be decent, good folks airing their views on gun ownership that were quite at odds with my own beliefs about guns. I saw fights break out over it.

Every time something powerful happens, I see the same thing. People fighting over their right to believe what they do, whether it’s in a political stance, a religious one or over music. It rapidly gets nasty, and what usually follows is a blazing row followed by a silence. The silence is usually because one or other of the parties involved has deleted or blocked the other.

In an instant, years of internet friendship is gone. Every Christmas present posted, every jovial exchange, every key moment shared in their mutual lives, all lost.

Don’t agree with my political stance? Deleted!

Dislike my religious faith? Unfollowed!

Hate my liking for cats and of posting pictures of kittens? Unfriended!

Object to sharing of youtube links? Blocked!

It’s too easy.

Imagine the person you have taken umbrage at is standing in front of you, helpless. You have a gun. You can put it to their head and without fear of consequence, you can pull the trigger, and that will be it. Would you do it? No, of course you wouldn’t. But in many cases, that’s what’s really in the minds of people when they remove another from their virtual life. Getting rid of a problem permanently and without mess or apparent consequence.

It diminishes all of us. It dismisses the very real value of learning to get on with people we don’t agree with all the time. It stops us learning to live and let live.

Each time a person cuts out someone they find they’re come to loggerheads with, something happens they don’t see. They lose the mirror others hold up to us and to our own behaviour and attitudes. We need others to disagree with us sometimes, because it helps us reassess our core values and beliefs. It stops us feeling as if we are paragons. Believe me, I hate anyone criticising me, having a pop at me for something. But like anyone else I need it. I need to see the other side of a story, the side I don’t want to see because it makes me uncomfortable and angry.

Someone had me hovering over the unfriend button because they were posting some pretty disturbing things about abortion, but I stopped. I spent time thinking about something that upsets me and it was good for me to do that. It reminded me of why I feel what I do about that subject but it also taught me that people always have reasons for their feelings. I’d dug a little deeper, just by reading their posts and comments, to see that there had been severe suffering that had brought them to this viewpoint. I felt compassion and I was able to step back and disagree, but allow him to hold his view as a valid one. That’s the key, you see:

You are not me and I am not you. You have been places I have not been and never will. I have done and seen things you have not. You have reasons for your beliefs and so do I. I may not agree with them but I would defend your right to hold them.

But the more a person hacks away at those who don’t quite fit their world view, the smaller their world becomes. Each time a layer of others is pruned away, the remainder become more and more closely scutinised for any signs of heresy.

I’d like to end by sharing some words by Anthony de Mello, from his book, The Song of the Bird:

The Old Woman’s Religion

A very religious-minded old woman was dissatisfied with all existing religions, so she founded one of her own.

One day a reporter who genuinely wanted to understand her point of view, said to her, “Do you really believe, as people say you do, that no one will go to heaven except you and your housemaid Mary?”

The old woman pondered the question and then replied, “Well, I’m not so sure of Mary.”

Stalking and Twitter

I’m in a bit of a twitter…

My Twitter account says I have 7 followers. But only 6 appear on my list of followers. I haven’t received an email saying So-and-so is now following you.

What worries me(I’m in one of my mildly paranoid phases; I use the term very loosely) is whether it is possible to follow someone and NOT show up: ie stalking.

I’m not really stalk-worthy, to be honest. I’m not very exciting or interesting, which makes it all the more worrying that someone might actually be following me unseen. I have a modicum of understanding of someone stalking the rich, famous or beautiful but I’m none of these.

If anyone knows the answer to this question, I’d very much appreciate it. I’ve contacted Twitter with a request but it may take a while to resolve and if it goes on too long I will either a) forget it entirely or b) start watching out for a little red dot….

Edited at 11.05am

Well, phewee!!

The email had obviously been delayed. The new follower is some random girl whose interests are mainly shopping and hanging with the girls, and I have no clue why she wants to follow me…so I blocked her. I’m sorry, she might be a worthy person but I am not happy to be added like that without so much as a direct message introducing herself.

I guess I’m a tad old fashioned like that!

Twitter

Can anyone explain Twitter to me in a way that the whole thing becomes even vaguely meaningful?

I joined almost by accident, at the request of a friend from my other blog, Cafe Crem, but he’s now vanished. Since I didn’t stop following him, he must have deleted his account. I must follow that up at some point and ask why. I now have a grand total of five people(or entities) following me. Of them, one is a friend in Gran Canaria(hi Dean!) another is my pal Jenny, whom I have known for years(hi Jenny!) another is a twitter pal of my original friend who I don’t know at all but feel it would be rude to now delete him. The two newest are a total stranger who has so far failed to answer my direct message about who she is and how we might be connected, and finally, last night the strangest of them all turned up.

The Henson Company is now following me. Yes, you got it, the guys who made the Muppets, created the creatures for such delights as Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and more recently, Farscape and many other films and TV shows.

Why?

Well, in trying to get into the spirit of the thing, I tweeted that I was spending the afternoon watching DVDs of Farscape and eating popcorn.

When I checked my emails before bed, that was what I found.

Barmy. It’s obviously either an automated system that picks up on key words, or some poor sod really needs to get a life or a better job.

For about a week, I(along with an enormous horde) followed comedian Stephen Fry, until I got very bored with it all. I liked him until then but he revealed himself to be not only the creatorof the term Luvvie but the very epitome of the term.

I simply do not understand it all. Oh, it’s nice to get little snippets of things about a few people I know and am far from, but the rest I don’t get. I’ve tried, believe me. It’s beyond me.

Politicians and celebrities are now all flocking to Twitter and it’s the politicians that annoy me. Go and do your flippin’ job, and stop arsing around pretending to be hip and cool and up-to-date. I(and I imagine a lot of people) don’t care if you are up-to-date with the latest fads; we only want that you do the job WE pay you for. I don’t want blow-by-blow accounts of the life of Gordon Brown; I doubt Mrs Brown does, even. I don’t want a minute by minute account of the day of David Cameron.

I saw a brief feature on the news about the uses of Twitter; some guy tweeted from Paris to ask what he could do there. That is so stupid; buy a guidebook, do some research! If you have Twitter on your phone, then you also have internet access on the move. Try something new for yourself, for heavens’ sake, don’t wait till someone says “Oh you must try the little Bistro near Notre Dame!”. Walk around and look around you. Someone has to be first and take a little tiny risk.

I cannot see that Twitter enhances my life in any real way beyond occasional messages from a few people who would maybe email or text me if there was anything really interesting happening. It’s a lie that we need to be in constant contact with each other about every little thing that occurs. We don’t. It doesn’t make me feel more connected with humanity, or anything like that. If anything it does the opposite. When it comes down to it, what can they do if I have a bad day other than say nice things? Can they appear (as if by magic like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben) and do something about it? No. Sadly they can’t. My family and friends(here) and neighbours can at least pass me a hanky and make me a cuppa.

So in a little while when I’ve got my face on, I’m off to meet a friend for a cup of coffee and a good old face-to-face chin wag. I don’t do it very often because life is busy and going to get busier, but it is important that we make time to BE with people when we can, and in the end, I do wonder if instant sound-bites are going to take up so much of people’s time that they stop finding time for the real business of connecting with people in a deeper and more meaningful way.