January 11, 2017
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and there’s a good reason. I’d been blogging for years, perhaps decades, under an anonymous website known to only a few good friends and internet acquaintances who cared enough to check it occasionally for my ramblings (or on my invitation). I maintained a level of privacy to allow me to speak my mind without concern. No identifying photos, names, or locations. I always intended it mainly for myself as a way to self-reflect, shared with some people I trusted as a sounding board for insightful discussion. This was a time when most people distrusted and rejected internet sharing as a geek’s practice, or something not worthy of their time.
With the rise of popularity of Facebook, there was an explosion of people I actually knew in real life finding it appropriate to share all kinds of personal details on the internet to close friends, family, and old acquaintances. Initially it was personal updates, family photos, vacation photos, updates on what they were up to. Gradually, people began sharing their personal thoughts and feelings. It was easy to move my web sharing over to Facebook, because suddenly everyone was there.
All this with the rise of clickbait articles, fake news, and strongly biased news sources with poor credibility. For me (and it seems a lot of people), the issues with oversharing became painfully clear with the recent US election, and all the other events over the past year with the rise of xenophobia, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and death of cultural icons.
Suddenly, we found ourselves inundatd with “news”. Sometimes it was accurate news but just too much of it. Sometimes there was real news there, but it was framed in a very biased and sensationalized way. Sometimes it was downright inaccurate. It overwhelms the senses and makes it difficult to parse through truth vs. fiction vs. sensationalization. I liken it to watching the Weather Channel all day everyday, when you’d likely get the sense that it’s best you stay at home forever.
Besides news, there’s all the viral “news” of specific individuals and their apparent stupidity. This became clear to me recently on two items. One of a guy who when asked how old he would be if he was born 5 years ago, and he got confused answering 20 or 21. Another of a guy who thought Obamacare wasn’t the same as the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps this person was really confused on the issue. Perhaps he was drunk or high and didn’t process the question. Perhaps he was doing this for the attention. Who knows. But the practice of sharing these things virally, not just for a couple of your friends to laugh at, but for thousands or millions of views and derogatory comments, suddenly everyone has been degraded to schoolyard level bullying. Deriving pleasure from the mistakes of others is wrong. It’s bullying.
The head of state criticizing individuals for their appearance, disabilities, or popularity is bullying. Regular old Joe sharing a clickbait article about how one person was so hopelessly confused about something super obvious to everyone else is bullying. It’s ill will, and not at all what I set out to do when I went online to share my thoughts.
I wanted to grow and improve as a person. I want to know what is really going on in the world. Not fall to a confusion of real and fake news, and laugh at the misfortune of others. So for the new year, my plan is to delete my Facebook app on my phone - check it on the web when I have time for friends’ updates. Watch the evening news on CBC, maybe read the Globe and Mail. Invest my time in reliable sources for news. Blog again. Especially since I’ve been posting less photos since I decided to not post photos of baby.
Maybe if I spend more time in reality, the world will feel less hopeless and confusing. Less sensationalized. More real.