Social media mayhem: can we learn to agree to disagree?

By Kelly Hockenberry, Columnist, The Times

The inauguration is only a few days away and the chatter on social media is beginning to escalate. I guess it’s no wonder considering the President-Elect is “somewhat” of a Twitter fan. If history is our guide, we should be prepared to be inundated with a flood of online opinions come Friday.

I’ll admit, I was shocked by the back and forth on Facebook following the election. Tensions mounted and tempers flared. Grown-ups were acting more like middle schoolers. If you expressed an opinion or liked or shared an article, it was met with criticism.

I’m not talking about the imbeciles who were blatantly derogatory. I don’t have the time or the patience for that sort of thing. I’m referring to a more subtle reaction. When the dust settled, I noticed people were starting to post comments about keeping things “light” and how political opinions had no place on Facebook. In my opinion, as long as the dialogue is open, honest, and respectable, social media can be a great platform for self-expression. If you don’t “like” it because I espouse a certain worldview, does it mean that we can no longer be friends? I would hope not.

I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 “friends” on Facebook. Truth be told, I don’t think I even know that many people. It’s stupid. Posting your feelings about life and waiting for people to approve or comment is creepy. I know that I’m not the only person who feels this way.

Have you watched Black Mirror? It’s the latest binge-worthy show from NetFlix. Each episode is a different story with new characters and plot; but, according to creator Charlie Booker, “they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. (Wikipedia).

The specific episode I need you to see is called “Nosedive”. It depicts a world in which our social media rating dictates our quality of life. Don’t have the necessary 5 stars from your friends? Well, you may not get to live or work where you want to. Imagine having to fake how you really feel in order to attain a more desirable ranking from your “friends.” Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? I don’t think it’s too far off the mark from what we experience these days.

How do we address this issue? For one, I think having an open mind to the opinions and philosophies of others is a good start. Secondly, agreeing to respectfully disagree may be the way to preserve those relationships where you can’t see eye to eye. We’ll have the perfect opportunity to practice on January 20th.

What do you think? Please comment in the section below.

Happy Weekend

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