The man who took professional-quality photos of my wife and me for the sole purpose of practicing a photography hobby that he loves has spent much of the last year railing on other people on Facebook for not sharing his political beliefs. We broke bread with him multiple times, even though we did not share his views. We all knew this, but still enjoyed the time together.
My brother-in-law and his family have traveled with us frequently. We’ve had wonderful times together, and will certainly again, even though we disagree on multiple topics. On Facebook, he is very vocal about those beliefs, to the point of being combative. Had I never met him and based my opinion of him on his social media persona, it is likely that we would have never met.
One of the people with which I played youth soccer for years is also someone I fished with in high school. We made memories that I carry with me fondly. I honestly don’t remember us even talking about things that we disagreed with back then. We only shared mutual loves of soccer and fishing. Now on Facebook, he’s very combative politically, which borders on abusive.
The Problem is Us
Social media isn’t by itself a bad thing. On the contrary, social media has helped friends and family reconnect after many years, and even though many thousands of miles separate them. It has helped people organize around a good cause, help people check on loved ones after a natural disaster, and even led to people falling in love and getting married.
Like so many other things in life, what is wrong with social media are people. It’s the people who post inflammatory, and frequently even inaccurate, content to further the divide between groups of people.
Thankfully, this is all very fixable. Humans are extraordinarily powerful creatures that have the ability to accomplish great things in numbers if we only commit to it.
The first thing that we must do is not respond to ill-intentioned social media content. Responding is not likely to change their minds. Responding only fuels the fire. Just let it go into the void without comment.
The second thing that we must do is generate positive content. Flood social media with it. Find common interests with those who inflame. Share common joys. Laugh together. Rejoice in the goodness within them.
If all else fails, remove them from your social media feed. Adjust the signal so that it’s pure goodness by removing the static, and then amplify.
We do not have to be enemies. We can all find commonalities that reflect the reality that we are all brothers and sisters in the common benevolence of humanity. Really, we aren’t all that different.