social media: it’s enough to make one anti-social….

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Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.
~ Oprah Winfrey

So why don’t we do that? It’s a question I asked myself recently and am going to strive to do better in the future.

When social media first started it was “What a great idea and what fun!” Today? Today I often wonder.  It seems to be more and more the virtual play ground where the idiots you choose not to associate with in real life congregate.

As a blogger, I accept I am an acquired taste. I am fine with that.  As a human being off the screen in the real world I am also an acquired taste. But if we were all identical carbon copies of one and other the world would literally be overrun with Stepford Wives.

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As a blogger, I am not a compensated blogger.  When I write up a business I visited, or a restaurant I ate at, or a non-profit event I attended it is because I paid to do those things just like everyone else. Well maybe not like everyone else because there are bloggers and social media “influencers” who are…. well… compensated.  In other words their good opinion is paid for in some fashion.

When I write, it’s my own experience, good or bad. I bought the goods, ate in the restaurant, bought a ticket to the non-profit event, used the paid services of a company.  There are people out there who do not. They expect goods and services and even fees to write something up.  Sometimes businesses are afraid to NOT slide them stuff because of what they might write or say on social media.

There are even people who take money for supposedly all sorts of services but it is really just about getting free stuff and then moving on to the next business? I have a lot of friends with small businesses of all kinds, so that really bothers me. From a moral compass standpoint, it also bothers me. It’s like blackmail, isn’t it? How do you live with yourself? How do you take the proverbial food off of someone else’s table?

Now onto the more personal side of social media.  Why are the keyboard tigers allowed to roam freely and wreak havoc?

I am an admin of several Facebook groups.  I have strong opinions so I do not mind strong opinions. But I do mind people who harass, badger, curse a lot (so ugly to see in writing) or who are just mean spirited to be mean spirited.  Or love to be super passive aggressive while just simply trying to stir the pot.

Recently I just quietly deleted the comment of a man who was just being an ass.  To me. For no reason. I had never spoken with him or even interacted with him online.  The comment was essentially abusive.  I chose NOT to respond which would have started an online flame war.

What is a flame war? This is what a flame war is:

In online forums and other online discussion spaces, a flame war is a series of flame posts or messages in a thread that are considered derogatory in nature or are completely off-topic. Often these flames are posted for the sole purpose of offending or upsetting other users. The flame becomes a flame war when other users respond to the thread with their own flame message.

I chose to be an adult and admin for the greater good.  I never said anything, just removed the comment and took advantage of Facebook’s mute feature which is a handy tool if used properly to cool off a situation. Well, the person who commented then decided to start private messaging me.

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Note the use of your over you’re.  Up until this point I had not removed the person from the group.  Just muted them for flaming comments. Who they are is immaterial to the conversation.  They were a stranger with a case of keyboard cowboyism. After sitting on the interaction and pondering it with other admins, we decided they would be happier elsewhere.

One of the groups I admin is a gardening group.  It is large and popular and has grown from local to regional to national and international membership.  I wanted a place where people could come from all levels of expertise and even professionals.

My group is blessed to have not only regular people but gardening professionals and growers who freely share their knowledge and expertise.  A good portion of them are paid for their expertise handsomely so I think we are really lucky.  I am a rabid gardener but I don’t know everything so I like to learn and share information.

Sometimes even in a gardening group people get like the Sharks versus The Jets.  Yes, a theater reference. West Side Story — an award-winning decades old adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet”. The feuding families become two warring New York City gangs. And that is what people get like on social media.

There was this thing happening in the gardening group that really was so ridiculous.  This divisiveness between organic based gardeners versus everyone else. Someone who was a professional posted about their own HOME garden with a helpful tip. A person I had had problems with before started challenging them.  The professional never lost their cool and answered all questions gracefully.

But the aggressor, who had demonstrated a similar pattern with others in the past, wouldn’t let it go. It turned from a conversation of opposing points of view to badgering.  It was unpleasant.  This person doing the haranguing hadn’t learned from the comments other admins had removed, so this time I muted them. And told them I was doing it and why.

They never said anything, but their supporters then started.  It was unfair and they should basically be allowed to turn a nice group into a place where many felt uncomfortable.  One of the champions of this person started messaging me.  They literally messaged me yesterday at 9:32 AM.  I did not see the message until 10:04 AM or maybe a few minutes later, because hello I was having an actual life. Do you live on the Internet? I don’t live on the Internet. I spend far too much time on it some days and I am making an effort to NOT be that way.  But when you are an admin of Facebook groups especially, people seem to have boundary issues.

So this person who messaged me was responded to.  But that wasn’t good enough.  They had to then try to start a passive aggressive situation of their own on the gardening group page. They wondered if they were “safe to post” like a pack of rabid dogs was suddenly going to appear on their doorstep and rip their keyboard, phone, or tablet from their hands.  As an admin that is a post that will escalate tensions that may exist.

I messaged the person and asked WHY they had to post that when I had actually taken the time to respond to them. My description of the timing was different she says. Ok she lives in my area is there a different time zone I am not aware of?

Then she says:

Not sure where the disconnect here is coming from, but blessed are the peacemakers.
Peace.

BTW, the word “ramblings” implies a kind of laid back, relaxed enjoyment of gardening. So, maybe chill out.

She goes on to say how she is just “speaking her truth” and she’s a “stream mom” and so on and so forth. And how I was wrong to mute the person who had been badgering people about…gardening.

No honey, I am not perfect and I get tired of being a babysitter. And with a couple of thousand people to manage virtually, some days it is exhausting. One gets tired of being a babysitter and a referee of adults who should all know better. But for some reason when it comes to social media they lose their manners and inhibitions….. social norms and acceptable public behavior flies out of the window. It is crazy. And face it, we have all seen people go off the rails.  Not naming names but look at a certain elected official on Twitter, right?

Having had enough of this back and forth, I blocked that person on messenger and removed them and the admins had to create a new rule so people got it:

New Group Rule as people seem confused: aggressive or passive aggressive comments towards gardeners for their decision to use biological (organic) or non-organic chemical controls in their garden will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be removed.

It’s a gardening group folks, not an environmental activist group. No one should be chastised for their gardening methods on their own property.

We all do not have to agree but just because someone chooses organic vs. non-organic or vice-versa does not make them a bad person.

Babysitting. Babysitting I do not get paid for and toddlers are better behaved at times.

It’s the love hate relationship with social media.

Then there are the people who capitulate to the whims of the social media haters and badgerers.

Years ago (as in 2013) I was part of a closed Facebook group still from where I used to live.  I was still new enough to Chester County that I wanted to keep up with where I had lived essentially most of my life. Moving to a place as an adult over 25 is very different than when you are young and starting out.  It is not as easy to meet and get to know people and although I had already fallen in love with Chester County, I sometimes still missed where I used to be because  I missed a lot of my friends.

I did not, however, miss the BS of the Main Line. And long before I moved west, back in the early days of Facebook I decided that some people I did not wish to interact with on social media because they were horrible to me in real life, even in public. You see, that was a drawback of being a blogger and a sort of social activist.

There were literally people who would eviscerate me in public and in letters to the editor of the local paper at the time as well as leave comments on local  and regional media website articles that were truly horrible.  They weren’t just being Internet trolls, they were bullying and harassing me.  They wanted to tear me down because at the end of the day I did not see things exactly the way they did and the way they told their minions to think.

It was a great sociological study.  It was taking the theory of bullying in the middle school lunch room to a whole new level.  And these were also the people who would holler like stuck pigs if kids were bullied in school or on the playground.  And I would just watch and wonder why they didn’t get where the kids were learning the unpleasant behaviors from?

So when I joined Facebook, I decided rather than risk further interaction with some fo these people, I would take the high road and just pretend they weren’t there and preemptively block them.  I wasn’t talking about them, I just wanted to limit their access to me personally. I am not a public official and wasn’t then either.  I was just a woman they didn’t like very much. I could live with that. Not seeing them around on Facebook was very peaceful.  Of course, that is why Facebook has privacy settings, right?

Lo and behold the admin of this community group from where I used to live messages me.  How she was going to have to remove me  from the group. Not for anything I had actually posted (which by 2013 was literally a couple of banal things like recommending a plumber), but because I had chosen to block these people who were miserable to me in the real world when I joined Facebook.

Say what??

I tried to explain to her that was to keep the peace, I wasn’t blocking her as an admin and group page owner. I was being responsible in an effort to avoid unnecessary online confrontations.  But oh no, her definition of community  was she chose to capitulate to literally adult mean girls and they had the right in community groups to see everyone.  I tried to explain I chose not to do that because I did not wish to have them have a window into my life.

Truthfully, I did not care about her group and belonging at that point.  I really didn’t need it, I was fine in my new life and her actions made me realize that.  But it was the principle of the thing. How can you self-profess to be a good person by demanding they open themselves up to unpleasant people in a social media group? (But this is a person who wants everyone to love them and needs to feel as if they belong, so in a weird way it made sense, didn’t it?)

The rules of social media groups in general include you can’t block the admins and moderators. But you CAN block people you don’t get along with or who make you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason. It is WHY privacy settings exist.

A couple of years ago, I decided to quietly unfriend this person on Facebook. We really were never truly friends, maybe short term acquaintances. So I decided to let her and some others go. Lives change, people change right? I never commented on it, I just let go.

Then yesterday, someone asked me about the garden group this person had.  They lived down closer to where this person lived so I said sure, I will send them the link I used to belong to it.  Only I could not find the group. So I asked someone else and they sent me the link.  They also told me I was no longer in the group.

A real WTF moment because it is a gardening group.  Not politics, not activism. Gardening. As in what I spend a lot of time doing. And I hadn’t been in the group, had never really posted in it ever and truthfully had never used the group much to begin with because to be honest I never learned anything from it. It was too basic for my knowledge base, and well, my group was better. But for whatever reason this person removed me and blocked me.

Oh social media Groundhog Day.  So I will admit I did message her about my discovery and how I discovered it.  I also said I really didn’t care that she did it, but  the principles of hypocrisy is what bothered me.  So I said to be equally fair I was removing her from my gardening group.  Sorry not sorry, you don’t get to benefit from my hard work and the expertise of those who post there and not share.  Not being able to share when it comes to gardening is just one of those things I find wrong.

Much to my amusement, when I went to look at the message I sent I saw that she had blocked me.  I still have her home address, I should really send her a thank you note. I do not need people like that in my life on any level, even peripherally. Kind of like the woman who made a point of telling me that she couldn’t invite me to her Christmas party because other people wouldn’t come if I was there. Yes, that is true.  Crazy, but true. And I didn’t ask to be invited in the first place.

Also crazy but true? Legitimate cyber bullies and cyber stalkers.  Social media is a kaleidoscope of crazy at times.

And that is the thing about social media. So many people need it to feel good about themselves. Or feel popular.  Or even powerful. But it’s all virtual.  I have come to the conclusion that I will more and more narrow my focus.  I have my writing, activism , love of historic preservation and things like gardening and cooking and photography.  I also have my true friends and I don’t need a huge collection of faux friends to fawn all over me.  I don’t need or want the self-proclaimed power brokers of people online, and those who take advantage…do you? (Think about it.)

Another thing that is getting to me on social media are the essentially social media based networking organizations you have to pay for.  Women are especially drawn to them and I have had friends who have belonged to these groups.

Women don’t realize they don’t have to pay these groups to raise their own business profiles and make friends (which exist mostly on social media – I can’t truly define it as camaraderie in real life can you ?)  And no one I know ever grew their business out of these groups but instead remarked on the cliquishness and time wasting of it all…and that these groups are expensive. You pay to join a group, you get let into their Facebook pages, then you are expected to pay to attend events, right? And what do they do for you? Who is making the money here and aren’t the chapters of these things like, if not actual  franchises?

Social media is a weird, weird place getting weirder every year. And I say that having been in it and on things like Twitter practically since inception (I joined in 2008, Twitter launched in 2006).

I started blogging back in the dark ages.  I was once part of this amazing site called Philly Futures which started in 1999.  I joined it at some point after 2002, and was part of it for a few years.  It was lots of different bloggers and was activism-centric.  They used to do things I thought were cool like Missing Monday which focused on missing persons. Philly Futures was an early voice in the genre of “citizen journalism.” It wasn’t a mommy blog or a monetized blog, it was a lot of good writing and interesting topics.  I miss it.

Sometimes I think social media has morphed into the land of the shallow.  And everything has to be light, happy, and airy fairy where unicorns fart only pastel rainbows. What I liked about the early blogosphere in the dawn of social media is it was real, and you could be real without chronic online castigation.

Look around at Facebook, Instagram, whatever your poison.  How can all those people have those perfect lives, really?  What happens if we pull the curtain back? And the photos.  Do some not realize that occasionally their personal photos are well photos that are better off left offline? To be enjoyed privately?

I am a blogger, yes, but I am still a fairly private person.  I like enjoying my family and friends offline.  You can’t grow a garden online.  You can’t cook a meal online.  You can’t go barn picking online. We can’t spend all of our lives online. Maybe it’s time to liberate ourselves somewhat from social media.  We used to exist fine without it, after all.

Think about it, when is the last time you wrote an actual letter?  I am going to hang out in my garden and commune with nature and check out butterflies.  I will leave you after this rambling post with an online article about types of Facebook posters. It’s very funny.

10+ Types of Facebook Posters

RobinB Creative
Humorous Caricatures of Social Media Users
Social media has existed since the earliest times.
Imagine, if you will:
An early, nomadic hominid, scratching an image onto the wall of her cave-shelter. Picture her wonder, joy, and surprise when she returns, a season later, to find an image left by an unknown “other”.
There, on the cave wall, is an “answering image” — with splashes of colour. She has no idea who “commented on her wall post”, but she knows she’s not alone. There has been a response to her unintended friend request. She is experiencing shared humanity and kinship, beyond the immediate circle of her tribe.
Over the years, they may have gone on to share information. I imagine them sharing hunting stories, food storage ideas, and even recipes. I see them inspiring each other to greater creativity by means of their developing art. Maybe, they even shared some personal details.
Did other people, passing through, add to the story on “her wall”?
Basically, humanity has been obsessed with “social media” ever since.
As cultures and technology developed over millennia, so did long-range social interaction. Passed messages, and formal mail services replaced cave paintings. Books spread thoughts and information to larger numbers. Telegraph, telephone, newspapers, and radio, further widened global information sharing.
….Social media, of various kinds — for good or bad — has become integral to our society. For people in my age-group (50s — plus or minus), that usually means Facebook.
I’ve isolated ten different caricatures of Facebook posters — although the first does have four sub-types. [CLICK HERE TO READ FURTHER AND YOU WILL BE GLAD YOU DID]

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