If there’s one thing that social media has done, it’s allowed a voice to the voiceless. And while that might seem like a good thing (and in some cases is a good thing), in the vast majority of situations, it’s actually a complete pain in the arse.
Take the anti-vaxxers, for example. I mentioned this last week: their online presence is every bit as big and organised as real medical professionals. And for a lot of people (who choose not to actually think), that means that their views are equally valid. You and I, each blessed with a functioning brain, can quite clearly see the difference between the two parties, and make up our own minds based on logic and information. Others, however, will take whatever they read first as gospel, no matter who happens to have said it, and that’s a real issue.
The other benefit/problem of this new found freedom of discourse is that you find yourself forced to continually interact with people that you usually wouldn’t choose to “in real life”, simply because you find yourselves on the same Whatsapp group because they bought a house 300m from yours or some such.
This could be incredibly enriching experience – an opportunity to see things through others’ eyes. However, in the vast majority of situations, it’s actually a complete pain in the arse.
And of course that swings both ways – they probably really don’t want anything to do with you either. And yet here we all are, each drawn together outside our comfort zones, wearing forced smiles and spouting false platitudes in order that we don’t get booted off the group in question and thus miss some vital piece of local information. Is it worth it? Of course it is – if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t still be on the group.
I don’t mind admitting that there are certain individuals on some social media groups who – for me (and others) – have gained “a reputation”. And not in a good way. You know what’s likely to be coming from them (because you’ve seen it a million times before), and you know that you’re not going to like it. Equally, I might be (indeed, I probably am) one of them to other people, simply because they don’t like what I say any more than I like what they say. We really wouldn’t last as friends. With good reason.
I don’t suffer fools gladly (because again, “in real life”, I don’t have to), but I really do try not to engage. I’ve got near endless patience and a wonderful ability to zone out and ignore most anything that annoys me. I have had plenty of practice of sitting on my hands and not responding to
idiots people on twitter, and I’ve worked out that I don’t have to respond, even when someone shares something so utterly nonsensical that it rattles my spidey-senses.
But jeez. They walk among us. And on the internet, it’s likely that their voices are every bit of loud as ours. Sad and terrifying.