Thursday, 26 January 2017

The unbearable lightness of social media

Just lately, I have found myself retweeting and sharing all manner of stuff on Twitter and Facebook. I say all manner of stuff, what I mean is "all manner of stuff illustrating how crazy/deplorable/stupid the new President of the United States is". I've been doing this because I feel it's important to get the message out as widely as possible, to spread the word, to minimise the risk of anything being missed, to make sure as many people as possible know as much as possible about the havoc he is wreaking. And yet...

And yet.

What's the point? By definition, my Facebook friends are people I know and like, acquaintances past and present. By inference, there's a good chance we share a lot of common ground, commonalities that extend to include views and belief systems. In other words, my Facebook friends probably already think the same way about Trump that I do. I am preaching to the converted, and cluttering people's timelines in the process. And I say cluttering, because they already know that Trump is a cataclysmically dangerous and destructive oaf, they don't need to read some link I've shared to tell them that. So they just scroll past it. And get used to scrolling past shared links, to the extent that if I did share something that was news to them they'd probably just scroll past that too, on oblivious autopilot.

I much prefer Twitter to Facebook, in general, but for this sort of thing it's even worse. Why? Because your retweets still pass the majority of your like-minded followers by, just like in Facebook, but - and it's a big but - beyond that, it's like hollering in a deaf person's ear. Not all the time, but take the issue of Trump, or Brexit, or even the Scottish referendum. These are such black and white issues, such polar opposites of extreme opinion, I do not believe for one moment that a Trump-loving, Leave-voting Scottish Nationalist is going to change any of his or her views, just because they've seen something I've retweeted. It's whistling in the wind.

Don't get me wrong, there's a value to retweeting, when it shines a light on an issue that is perhaps not widely known or where there are many shades of grey. But when you're banging the drum for one side or the other in a partisan, them-vs-us, black or white debate, where beliefs are so passionately held and diametrically opposed and where (here's the crucial bit) your chances of actually converting someone from the "other side" to your way of thinking are practically zero, well that's when it's time to rein in all but the most essential retweets and shares.

So that's what I'll be doing from today, and hope that it also helps my state of mind, which has been veering towards depression over the last week. I watched The Age Of Stupid two nights ago, and it nearly finished me off. Don't let that stop you though, I consider it absolutely essential viewing. Watch it... and do have nightmares. Then wake up and decide what you want to do about it, besides retweeting. Me, I'm going to join the Green Party for a start. How about you?


  1. Even though, like you, I restrict my Facebook acquaintances to those who don't need converting, I do see a value in reposts and retweets. I don't do it much myself, but often the only news I see these days is that I get filtered and reposted through people whose opinions and worldview I trust. Yes, that probably means I'm only getting one side of the story in a lot of cases...But I'm past believing the other side of the story has any value.

  2. You're right, of course, in that shares and reports provide a trusted, filtered source of news. Like you, that's exactly where I get a lot of my news.