If you haven't seen this series before, here's an explainer.
We've all had it happen - we open Facebook or Twitter, and all of a sudden, we're faced with a sudden, terrifying realization:
We're friends with an asshole.
It's not your fault - it happens to the very best of social media users, and there's nothing we can do to stop or anticipate it from happening. You're perusing Instagram and all of a sudden someone starts suggesting [hate group of choice] "really makes some sense when you start to think about it." Or our mother won't stop liking and commenting on every damn thing we post (love you Mom, and know you don't read this blog, but we get that you like my nephew - you can ease up a bit).
But what's the one dealbreaker for you, that causes you not just to unfollow or hide someone in your feed, but causes you to re-assess what you think about them? That's the question we tackle this week, where we take Things We Like and turn it into something negative (because after all, what else is the internet for?) - Things We Don't Like.
The things below are true irritants, do not get me wrong. But I normally just subscribe it to the fact that people are weird and socially develop in different ways. Our parents use the internet differently than we do, and I'll bet (though I have no idea because youths scare me) that high school and college kids today use the internet in a fundamentally different way than I ever have or ever will. They're all using it wrong, of course, but such is their right.
But what I'll never get is the people who seem to forget that, while the internet is a pretty wonderful place for anonymity at times (like me!), it's not always anonymous, and you should be prepared to stand behind the words you write. For instance, remember when people complained about Colin Kapernick signing a long-term contract because of the message it sent to "the children?"
This combines everything I hate about the internet into one beautiful tweet. First, some included a "thuggish" photo of Kapernick, which is just veiled racism - why pick that photo of Kaepernick instead of one like this? And why tweet it about Kaepernick - a quarterback who has led a team to back-to-back NFC Championship games - instead of a much poorer quarterback who similarly cashed in, and has at least one or two stories of not being a role model.
Second, it invokes "the children." What is this lesson that kids can't learn? That in life, capitalism will reward a select few people with incredible riches, sometimes for talents that don't particularly mesh with making the world a better place. Funny, I don't see this in the context of a rich white guy who made a lot of money without exactly creating a lot of social good. If you don't like seeing athletes make a lot of money, the best way to limit that is to stop watching them perform. Otherwise, they'll be paid what the market bears (actually less thanks to the cartel-like operation of the NFL, but let's put that conversation aside for the moment). This is trolling at its worst.
Lastly, many folks who commit these faux paus follow it up with the always fun Social Media Deletion. This goes back to just basic common sense - if you're posting something on the internet, it's going to stay there forever, so you might want to think about what you wrote before you hit send (I've self-edited this document twice already!).
In short, people who post things wondering why "things are the way they are" without putting any thought into the issue or engaging in basic debate, and then hiding from it once the stupidity of their comments are pointed out to them - that's the kind of stuff I can't stand on social media, and the thing that most quickly leads me to re-assessing my relationship with the people who post it. The world can be complicated, but if your response to it is to throw your hands in the air and wonder why it's so hard, then maybe you should consider thinking more and whining on Twitter less.
This goes double for people who write for newspapers for a living:
Hello. I would like to congratulate you on getting engaged. I would also like to congratulate you for subscribing to facebook dot com (ed: a fine website where you can find wonderful content like this. And yes, Farmville).
Now, a word of admonition. You don't have to post every single engagement picture that the photographer takes. Really, you don't have to post any of them. But you definitely shouldn't post the one where you're awkwardly holding hands and making forced eye contact with a look that tries way too hard to convey that you will love each other for all eternity. Nor do you have to upload the one where you're striking a sassy pose in the foreground and he's off in the background making a face that says something proximate to oh boy what are we going to do with THIS wild mare?
I'm not usually one to point out how much better things were before the internet (because they weren't), but there was a time when you'd spend an hour or two taking engagement photos and then you would pick just one -- the best one out of hundreds -- and put it in the newspaper or on your desk or wherever people put framed engagement photos before technology empowered us to have truly social life events.
Really, though, this is just a symptom of the disease afflicting many people who are terrible at social media. They have no capacity for self-editing. And I'll just leave it at that because this makes a nice segue into Jorge's comments.
I can think of a handful of lesser offenses that when committed by the same party ad nauseam (which is often the case) are grounds for a swift unfollow: liberal use of the word "amazing", comments consisting only of the single-word sentence "Love.", posting a Buzzfeed article, torrents of baby/toddler pics. But these are harmless irritants, merely an exhibition of tastes I find personally repulsive or fiercely annoying. So I'm going with maudlin/self-deprecating Facebook posts, which are not only obnoxious but kind of an asshole thing to do.
These faux-stoic laments and woe is me asides are merely cheap sympathy harvests proffered as general appeals to the universe. Now, this isn't me telling people to toughen up and stop having feelings. We all get in funks, and waxing melancholy is a reasonable and maybe even therapeutic exercise. Say you wrote about it in a journal or confided in a close friend over a beer or bellowed your gripes from a remote mountaintop. Hell, even just think it! The universe can hear you! BUT INSTEAD YOU POSTED IT ON YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE, suggesting this was less about airing your grievances and more about wanting the internet to weep for you.
Here are some non-verbatim examples, mere composites assembled from years of social media use:
- Ugh, every time I meet someone new I screw it up :(
- Sometimes I'm not sure about anything -- Feeling Lost
- Woke up this morning and felt awful, ugh why do I always get sick
- Sad that some people feel the need to talk trash behind your back, but that's okay because they'll just realize down the road that they didn't matter in the first place. Thankfully my parents raised me better than to even acknowledge people like that.
(I love the last example. You wouldn't dare "acknowledging people like that" except, you know, by making veiled reference to them in a public forum.)
Compounding the issue: the Aunts of Facebook. As sure as the sun rises in the east, every candy-ass sympathy grab is validated by an aunt comment within minutes:
I submit that aunts are to blame perpetuating this kind of cyberwankery and must be stopped at all costs. DOWN WITH FACEBOOK AUNTS!