How to Exist Together on Social Media?

After all of these years on social media, I’m trying to figure out how to… Exist there.

I wrote an essay a couple of weeks ago about why I slapped an “auto-responder” of sorts on my Facebook wall and walked away.

I haven’t deleted my account yet. I haven’t even deleted the app from my phone. So much of life is tied into that little blue app. Plus, I like to check notifications to make sure I don’t miss anything life-threatening or urgent (haven’t so far).

People seem to show up as their worst selves on Facebook (some people say this about Twitter, but Twitter terrifies me, so I only peruse it on occasion; anyhow, what I say here might be true about Twitter as well). Most Facebook comments aren’t things that someone would say to someone else. It’s like trying to talk to one person while in the middle of a room full of people who you’re trying to impress standing on a table and talking through a bullhorn. Comments always seem to have a hint of (or are fully driven by) performative public peacocking (or, as I call it, PPP).

I kinda can’t stand it. And it’s not only the behavior of others. I can’t stand MYSELF on Facebook.

But since I’ve been away, I have to say, I miss these people (or, at least, a number of them). I miss hearting their exciting announcements. I miss seeing photos of their kids, nieces, and nephews. I miss the funny commentary.

I don’t, however, miss the punditry. Ugh, the punditry. Do people think that we don’t get news elsewhere? I’m guilty of this too. Whenever a lizard brain-pinging headline pops up in my newsfeed, the first thing I want to do is slap it on Facebook so that I can absolve myself from any judgment.

Anyhow, I’m asking myself right now…

What’s the best way to ‘exist’ on social media?

Here’s a “rule” or two that are forming, though they might be hard to actually live by…

Only share ‘gifts’ on social media. Things of beauty, insight, and humor. Good stories. Funny jokes. Things that uplift people.

I say that most “beefs” are best resolved through direct message. Or a drafted letter sent by email or post.

I don’t know… Maybe this is futile.

I used to criticize people who were too “self-promotey” on social media. But I’m starting to change my view on that. My favorite YouTubers or authors aren’t likely going to share the latest linkbaitey New York Post article. They’re sharing their work that they pour their heart and soul into.

My friends who own a coffee company in Chicago share latte art and barista profiles from their beautiful cafes and roasteries all day. They’re not peddling outrage, they’re sharing good coffee vibes! They make the social web a better place (and it helps them make a living and more able to pay their employees what they’re worth).

I say that punditry should only be shared by people who do it for a living. Scholars. Political scientists. Professional and trusted Journalists (with a capital-J). I’m talking people like David Brooks, Heather Cox Richardson, or Coleman Hughes.

Not culture manipulators or “influencers”. I’ll say it right now: I SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED AS A PUNDIT.

Anyhow… I’m just sorting through this. It’s a big question mark right now. But I think it is important. I don’t think we can just do away with the social web — I mean, we can, but what then what are we missing out on? Anything? Digital FOMO is real.

One of my favorite preachers isn’t on social media ANYWHERE besides on YouTube when he’s giving a sermon, devotional, etc. He’s well-regarded and seems happy in his vocation. Maybe his absence from social media is why.

But part of me also says that there’s some redemption possible on social media. If good people walk away from it, that makes it a worse place, no? Maybe we should rush into it.

Can we learn how to exist there together? Is there a way? The jury’s still out for me.

As Ever,
Jonas