Lately, I can’t stop dwelling on the positive and negative impacts social media and the 24 hour news cycle have on our lives, and how much they’ve changed our behavior, interactions and treatment of each other.
It started last week, racing through Grand Central Terminal, when I looked up and caught this sign hanging in a shop window. I was feeling very cynical, having just scanned many of the 140 comments posted in response to a NY Times story concerning our neighborhood – most of them snarky with assumptions made about people they didn’t know. While I understood their anger and opposition, my heart went out to a mother who was singled out; and I couldn’t help feel that reading those comments would be hurtful.
Only a few years ago, we may have read the paper and tossed it in the recycling bin or mailed in a letter to the editor to prompt further discussion. Now everyone, instantly, has their say; often without filters or the thoughts we’d take to a face to face conversation.
Does knowing so much about everyone, up front, make it easier to pre-judge and miss an opportunity to connect on some other common ground? Let’s face it, if you knew all the details of your barista’s date last night, would you still smile while ordering your Starbucks and say hi? Or, does knowing all the political views of that mom selling PTA tickets make you run the other way?
Later in the week, I also caught a segment of the Today show (at the gym!) talking about creeping. Yikes! If you’ve ever, intentionally (or not), lingered on i.e. dug up a friend’s social media account or rummaged through their friends’ pages – you’ve done it. Who hasn’t innocently (or not) clicked on a friend’s Facebook page and, before you know it, your knee-deep in their vacation pictures of Aspen or Mexico? Or, you can’t stop obsessively checking your boyfriend’s ex’s social media posts. I mean how much time are we wasting people?
After all this, generally, creepy behavior, my sister-in-law’s post, Don’t Look Away on A.Joanne, restored my hope for the positive impacts social media has made. She highlights a tragic story about the rape and killing of a 7-year-old girl in Pakistan, Zainab Amin. When the #JusticeforZainab hashtag went viral, it shifted the tide on the long-held culture in Pakistan, of shaming victim’s (and their families), while abusers go unpunished. Using social media, people expressed their outrage, bravery and willingness to speak openly about their own abuses, pressuring the local government to finally pursue her killer. No doubt this was inspired by the current success of #metoo in shaking up Hollywood, media, sports, politics, education etc, for a long overdue end to sexual misconduct and outrageous behavior.
Not too long from now, Luca will want to join this world too. By then, I can only hope he understands that to be truly “social” is to personally connect with others; to remember to act with those qualities listed on that sign and expect real friends to do the same back! Now if only they would post it on social media too!