Hulne: Social media isn’t always social

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

If the world doesn’t evolve along with technology, we’re going to be left with some serious problems and there is a budding problem in our society that is teetering on an eruption.

I’ve always wanted to write about the effects of ‘social’ media and there is no time better than now. Over the last few weeks, social media helped spur a violent outburst in Owatonna High School and caused a rift among students in Austin High School.

The more technology expands, the smaller the world has become. Where bullying used to be a small group against one kid or even one kid against another kid, it has now evolved into large populations against one kid. The trigger effect of social media scandals has taken on an all too familiar script.

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Person ‘A’ posts something insensitive or ignorant online, person ‘B’ sees the post and goes on a crusade to shame person ‘A.’ That’s where the modern day internet kicks in.

As the retweets and shares pour out, person ‘A’ has suddenly found themselves being insulted and threatened by people from miles away, whom they have never even met before.

There are two ways to stop this problem. Obviously, people should think before they post something to a forum where many eyes can see it and they should also be careful what they send to other people, even friends. We need to act less on impulse and fame-chasing and think more about about compassion and empathy.

The second part of the problem is this rush to shame people for ‘thought crimes.’ We still have the freedom of speech in this country and even the most ignorant ideas should be allowed to stand on their own. Besides, the bigger the reaction, the more the idea gains attention which was probably the goal of the original poster.

We need to learn to ignore things that don’t fall into our beliefs and if we must reach out, we must take the time to explain to the person why you don’t agree with them. Name-calling a person who name-called does not make you the better person.

The flip side of social media is why I still carry a flip phone on me, when far better technology is available. It is distracting and it keeps us from being our full ‘social’ selves. We need to get back to keeping on our phones on the kitchen counter and embracing life without worrying about Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. While those platforms are useful tools, like anything else they must be enjoyed in moderation and not excess.

I fear that 10 or 20 years from now, scientists may find devastating results on the negative effects of social media as whole, if its use is not contained to a reasonable degree.

For now, there are simple steps we can take to make the world a friendlier face.

Make eye contact when speaking to someone, listen to what they’re saying and provide a thoughtful response.

Do that, and we’ll be back to getting social.