A few years back, when social media was taking its first tentative steps into the digital world, I asked around about it. Naturally, no one is born into this world automatically knowing about social media. What I got as an explanation – basically, that it duplicated everything I was getting via e-mail, only this would open up my life to the scrutiny of the whole world rather than my intended victims – put me off. I send essays, comments, personal letters, photographs, to a limited number of people who may be interested. The rest of the world has their own social circles. So I opted out. And when I say “opted out,” I mean that I never joined anything, not Facebook, not Twitter, not LinkedIn, nothing. I’ve been invited several times by colleagues to join LinkedIn – after all, it is supposed to be for professionals in various fields and I am a paraprofessional in several fields – but I’ve always sent them polite e-mails declining their invitations, citing the fact that they could reach me by phone, e-mail, snail mail and text, and that if none of those works, I’m either in the shower or deceased.
As it is, my disinclination to get involved in social media has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Witness the number of people whose lives have been turned entirely upside down by uploading photographs of their young children for pedophiles to enjoy, or uploading photographs of their new house alongside photographs of the vacation they were on, only to return home and find that the lovely new house had been looted because the thieves knew exactly when and where. And though these stories may seem apocryphal, they are, in fact, true and in more cases than many people would like to admit. The same sort of thing happened upon the advent of the GPS. People would get a new GPS and proudly type their home address into the field designed for it, and then find their vehicle stolen and the thieves on the way to their digitally documented home for more fun and games.
Face it: digital makes us vulnerable.
The new – or new in the past decade, at least – trend is to put things on social media that are the equivalent of digital suicide. How many times have people put things on Facebook that have eventually been found by potential employers, thereby causing said employers to withdraw their offers? We’ve all heard of this. It’s been in the news countless times. And this is because FACEBOOK POSTS ARE NOT PRIVATE. How do I say this so you pay attention? FACEBOOK POSTS ARE NOT PRIVATE. FACEBOOK POSTS ARE NOT PRIVATE!!! If I have an opinion, I can tell someone, or send an e-mail to someone, or a letter (better yet, handwritten), but I would no more post my opinion on Facebook than I would put it on a billboard. And I don’t give a flying you-know-what about Facebook “privacy settings.” Anyone can get into privacy settings, which then cease to be private. Notwithstanding this BLOG post, of course, where I specifically address an issue, I want opinions to go only to specific recipients, not the whole of (un)civilized society.
Well, this phenomenon is not limited to Facebook, and the proof is the number of firings and resignations we have seen lately because of unfiltered postings on Twitter. Tweet tweet. Again, you have an opinion that you want to share with like-minded friends and acquaintances, you send an e-mail to ONLY those people. You post it on Twitter and that seven-figure income can well morph into a three-figure unemployment check.
The worst of it is, of course, that so many people have so many ugly opinions. What is being tweeted these days are the subconscious ravings of racists and misogynists and right-leaning wing-nuts. And who knew there were so many? Since the end of the Civil War – and especially since the end of World War II – we have been on our way to a more enlightened society, a society in which we are all equal – or so claim the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance – yet we have, instead of our intended growth, seemed to take a couple of giant steps back from Ego and Superego to Id. People chide me for being a Freudian, but down deep I’ve always known he was right. We started to take a giant step forward in our evolution as a society and then questioned our existential growth for all the wrong reasons and let it loose on Twitter. And, oddly enough, though we may condemn it in public, and the perpetrators be publicly shamed and disenfranchised, there are some people out there who privately enjoy this not-so-pleasant turn of events. They like the racism. They like the disparagement of women. They like to assign blame to anyone who doesn’t look like them or think like them or act like them, no matter how awful they look, think or act. And that saddens me.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this was not what G-d had in mind when He tendered those 613 commandments to Moses for distribution. G-d saw how petty, mean and closed-minded we could be and gave us 613 laws to counteract those natural human tendencies and make us more like Himself. He gave us laws that were supposed to guide us toward being better people. And what have we done with them? Ignored them and descended back to Id. (This is an essay on social media; if you need to know more about the Freudian theory of development, look it up!) Honestly, we’ve had over 3,500 years for improvement, and we have not improved. G-d must be tearing out what little hair He has left, and Freud is no doubt spinning in his grave, wearing a t-shirt that says: “I told you so.”
Back to social media.
There are really two issues here. One is the use, misuse and abuse of social media, which has resulted in the public shaming and humiliation and unemployment of so many people, and the second is the fact that human beings – at least in the United States of America – don’t seem to learn from their mistakes. I used to watch WPIX news in the morning while I was getting ready for work, and come Spring, most every day there would be a news story about a bunch of teenagers in a car with a drunk driver, which is a recipe for disaster, and then some video footage of what used to be an automobile of some kind, but which was now merely a mangled metal coffin. And I kept thinking that if teenagers all over America saw that footage in the morning, then they would either not drive drunk or would not get into a car with a drunk driver at the wheel, but then I would be proven wrong the next morning when an entirely different mangled metal coffin would be displayed along with the number of dead and injured. Me? You don’t have to tell me twice. And dying in a car means you don’t get a second chance to make that decision.
So please tell me why, day after day, we see yet another public figure go down in infamy based on an effing TWEET. People see it in the news every single day, and don’t learn; can’t keep their opinions to themselves. The same thing, of course, is happening to men all over the country whose inability to keep their hands off their co-workers is being outed daily, but do other men learn from this? Of COURSE not. So many of our formerly great artists, thinkers, commentators, go down, down, down the rabbit hole of humiliation when it turns out they have zero self-control. Robin Williams was correct when he said that men have two heads but only enough blood for one to work at a time. And it seems when the little one has cornered the market on blood, it is enough to cause havoc. Maybe when the big head comes to (npi) and realizes the degree of sabotage, he has regrets, but only after he’s lost his job, his prestige, his salary, his wife and his children. And that is too effing late!
Anyway, it is high time we searched for, and found, our better selves. And it is high time that we stop tweeting out our every uncensored thought. And it is high time that we kept our hands to ourselves. And it is high time that we stop feeling like we don’t exist if the whole world doesn’t acknowledge our tweets. We are all human beings, made in the image of G-d. We have worth, we have value, we have potential, we have dignity, and we need to ascribe all of those traits to everyone we meet, minus the tweet. Maybe if we made more of a conscious effort to be better people and less of an effort to be obnoxious in 280 characters, we would have significant character improvement and less death by tweet.
© 2020 MyPoliticalSelf / S. Schimek