Society is strange isn’t it? I guess that is why there is a whole field, Sociology, dedicated to observing how people interact. Sociologists study the impact of culture on the masses, they study our social behavior, and sometimes our social disorder. They ask why society develops as it does, and they observe current society’s effects on future generations.
I think about Sociology a lot, especially on days like today. This morning, the news of another mass shooting is burned into my brain. At least 17 innocent lives lost. And me, like most of us, rolled out of my pillowtop bed, groggy, sadden, stressed by the days expectations, and I instantly hopped on my iPhone to look at social media (Black Mirror much?). Only to be faced with more negativity, more anger, and more blame.
And really, who’s to say? I mean, who is to say how people should process their emotions and reactions? I don’t want to judge my friends and my family because they might have posted something that I disagree with. Because, really, at the end of the day, we are all disturbed by this act and we are all very upset. So, I know that we are on the same page, even if I disagree with an article they share or a statement they make. They’re still good people.
I think about Sociology. I ask myself why we interact the way we do. This sociological thought process was seared into my brain (right next to my aforementioned current events category) by my own academic studies. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Still, I am no expert, especially in a tragedy like a mass shooting (my favorite focus was really cults and my senior thesis was on indie music as a subculture – So really. I am NO expert), but I sit back and objectively observe social media and my surroundings and mental health in our country, analyzing with the hauntingly precise methods my professors instilled in me (Truly, thinking like this annoys me, because it’s so… much… but then I remind myself that one of the best characters in Stephen King’s The Stand is a sociologist and when the world ends and the stars of the novel are trying to navigate life, post-society, the sociologist provides tremendous, lifesaving insight – so it’s important. Also, The Stand is an excellent piece of literature that I highly recommend).
Anyway, Facebook sent me a survey this week asking, “Agree or Disagree? The world is a better place with Facebook in it” (something like that, I can’t remember the direct quote), and I instantly hit disagree. Since clicking that answer, this question has eluded me.
Is the world better without social media? I know there are positives. We stay connected to people. It provides opportunities for small businesses. I’m honestly running out of more positive examples… But this is an open blog, please feel free to comment.
On the other hand, on a morning like this, with such tragedy striking our nation (again), is it good to wake up to a newsfeed full of sadness and anger? Is it healthy to distract myself with more and more negativity? I don’t think so. I would argue that Facebook (maybe unlike Instagram) even, unintentionally, promotes hostility and anger. It’s a revolutionary platform that allows us to see the innerworkings and the inner most thoughts of our peers (sometimes people we don’t even know very well). Facebook has bred this strange cultural phenomenon of adverse opinions being heard. I say adverse, because these are not typically opinions people share in everyday conversations. Yet, people light up Facebook like a Christmas Tree with arguments, anger, and opinions. When I step away from Facebook and walk around the real world… I hear almost 100% less anger and opinions than when I am logged in. Isn’t that strange?
I guess that I am talking about all this because I studied Sociology, I woke up and looked at Facebook, there was a mass shooting yesterday, and I’m just tired of the negativity.
Another odd occurrence in modern technology and culture is profound self-righteousness. This ties into those opinions that people share that I previously mentioned. In a bizarre way Facebook, Twitter, and the media have condoned the act of people talking on topics they know nothing about. I constantly see articles and posts that name-call or are extremely bias. Here’s the thing, I am not going have an aggressive opinion on war until I am in the military, or live in a war- torn country, or I am a soldier stationed 3,000 miles away from home. I am not going to have an aggressive opinion on homelessness until I am out on the streets or have a loved one who can’t pay their rent. I am not going to tell a police officer how to do their job until I am working with criminals every, single day. And I am not going to talk about what it is to be African American in America, because I am not African American.
That’s not to say that I will not empathize, I have my beliefs and I work towards bettering the wrongs that I see. BUT sitting on social media calling lawmakers or soldiers or the disenfranchised names, picking apart others’ short-comings, or bombarding a newsfeed with one-sided articles, is in no way effecting change or positivity. It’s honestly exhausting.
I know…. Just log off. I could just log off. We all have that choice. And I know a lot of people face this same dilemma. So why don’t we? We all have the friend who deactivates their account for a month or so, but then they (usually) come back – why?
Are we bored? Are we addicted to the negativity? Is there something on there that is so positive that we need it? Do we need to be heard? Has Facebook provided the best platform for us to express our feelings?
I honestly don’t know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
My intention in writing this today is because I wanted to express my feelings. I am hoping this gets people thinking. I also wanted to write it to encourage social media users to stop with the negativity. I know our president and celebrities and news outlets and virtually everywhere else (reality tv, magazines, tabloids, etc.) have seemingly endorsed negative language. It just isn’t a good look. And I am not blaming these parties for all of this either. There’s no one person to blame for misfortunes like yesterday’s tragedy, that’s the cool thing about sociology as a study.
On another note, I cannot begin to address the evil that must exist for a mass shooting. And I am still in shock about the deaths and feel so much for the families.
I don’t know what to do. I think I’ll write a letter to my representative today. In the meantime, for the next few days, I am donating 100% of the proceeds from my Etsy store to the families of the victims (once they put up a GoFundMe or another direct cause for the shooting – I’ll update with specifics once I have details).