Thursday, January 7, 2016

They're Selling Soap; But You Don't Have to Bathe In It

Facebook is starting to bug me.
I mean, I don't blame Facebook itself.  I blame myself, really.  Because you  have more control than you think over what you see on Facebook...the pages you "like", the memes you share, the articles you comment on, the things you shop for (which is a little creepy, but it is what it is.)
It is my misfortune that much of my activity on Facebook revolves around my politics.  And what I've found is, Facebook has created an alternate internet reality for me.  When I go on Facebook, I am bombarded with liberal political memes, slams on the right wing, stories about current affairs with a definite left-wing slant.  Many of which cause me to nod in agreement and click the "share" button.  And so I continue--and escalate--the cycle.  Click more, see more, click more, see more.
It occurs to me that I have created my own little Fox-News-esque  reality bubble, where everyone thinks like me, believes what I believe, is outraged over the same things I get outraged about.  It is at once comforting and frustrating...nice to know there is a "community" of others out there who share my beliefs, but frustrating because the outrage never ends, things never change, dumb-ass stuff that makes me crazy continues to happen all over the country and the world, and there's nothing I can do about it.  It's like watching the planes fly into the twin towers over and over again; I know it's damaging my psyche, but I can't seem to look away.
Once again, I am confronted by the need for balance--a recurring theme in my life, and especially in the past few months.  Balance is as important to life as food and water.  Spending time in a consistently unbalanced environment has actually become a source of irritation for me, rather than a source of comfort.  Community is all well and good, but when you allow yourself to be encased in that community, when you settle in and never rouse yourself to go beyond it, it starts to suffocate you. 
The other night, I was navigating around Facebook, trying to get sleepy enough to go to bed.  I made an interesting discovery.  On my own page, wallowing through the stories about gun safety and red-neck militia and Donald Trump, I felt anxiety, depression and frustration closing in around me.  I am passionate about my political views, but right now, that passion seems to have no positive outlet. 
Then I clicked onto one of the group pages I belong to.  It's a page dedicated to an Oregon wildlife refuge, one where we post pictures taken there and share ideas and identifications of the birds and other wildlife. Immediately, I felt the atmosphere around me clear and lighten, as if a fresh breeze had blown away the miasma that had closed in around me on my normal news feed.  I suddenly felt happy,  engaged,  and excited about the "conversation" I was having with other members of the page.  And it had nothing to do with politics.    
THIS is it, I thought: the internet into which I had tentatively crept  a dozen years ago.  These were the feelings I had discovered and come to crave with my first interactions with people outside my own head in AOL's journal-land, 'way back in 2003.  The kinds of interactions I have missed and mourned...for quite a long time now.
Moral of the story, I guess, is that--a decade and a half down the road--the internet has definitely changed.  "Matured" might not be a good word for the process...but it has grown.  At first glance, it would seem to have descended into the dark side.  But is neither all bad nor all good.  It is what you make of it. 
But you really have to be aware that you ARE making it...perhaps according to someone else's idea of what you would like to see, but you are the source, nonetheless. 
And it helps not to forget that the "someone else" who is helping you create your internet reality does not necessarily have your best interests at heart.  They are basically trying to sell soap.  Drama and dissent sells soap.  As long as the internet is "free," it's important to keep that in mind, and try to take as much conscious control as possible of your internet experience.   


1 comment:

  1. You: It occurs to me that I have created my own little Fox-News-esque reality bubble, where everyone thinks like me, believes what I believe, is outraged over the same things I get outraged about.

    I realize I do this same thing so force myself every now and then to visit news sites like Drudge Report and, etc. Honestly, I can hardly stand it. As you said in your most recent post - there is not your truth and my truth - there is simply the truth - facts!! And they don't seem to matter or are completely ignored if they don't fit one's reality, particularly from the right. While I admit to my left leaning bias, the nonsense coming from the right is quite often simply not accurate or so peppered with with their favorite inflammatory terms that are pure opinion - weak, leading from behind, no respect, appeasing. No matter how good the news may be, it is spun in a negative manner with dire predictions as to an outcome that never happens - death panels, job killing legislation, the spread of ebola in the US and on and on. It is simply too frustrating to subject myself to for any length of time.