Facebook is among the most commonly visited websites in the world, and we’re not talking about just social media sites, but over the entire internet. YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit are right behind them when it comes to social media sites specifically. We are spending a lot of time on these sites sharing. Some people make money from their social media activity, some advertise in hopes of making money, but most just share. What we’re all sharing is part of why this seemingly amazing and useful interconnected world of information sucks so bad.
The last US Presidential Election cycle highlighted how it easy it is to take advantage of people’s innate biases to spread disinformation with social media. Literally fabricated accounts of the most ridiculous tabloid-style writing was passed off as legitimate news articles and shared by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people to their social media friends. Countless memes were created with false quotes implicating one candidate or another in something untoward, and again, spread like an out of control wildfire. We also now know that some of these falsified stories originated out of foreign countries, specifically targeting one particular candidate to attempt to influence the broader media coverage and voter’s attitudes toward this candidate. It worked remarkably well.
Disinformation and misinformation is just one aspect of the suckage that spews forth from social media. Spend a little time on Twitter, or reading YouTube or Facebook comments and you’ll see truly vicious and hateful rhetoric aimed at literally anyone and everyone. No matter the topic, from sports to politics, from breastfeeding to sexual orientation, everyone is a target.
Even in the less savage circles of the social media internet–and let’s face it, when you’re as big as Facebook, you might as well be called your own internet–everyone posting something on their page risks being embarrassed by their friends or family, critiqued or evaluated on the appropriateness of what they chose to share, or one-upped by someone whose vacation was just better than yours, or whose TV is more fabulous, or whose new car is even better than your new car.
Social media sucks because it’s used by people, and people suck. Social media has just given people an enormous platform to display their inherent tendencies, which unfortunately are really shitty. People are greedy, selfish, jealous, attention-seeking, vindictive, manipulative, and judgmental, just to name a few qualities off the top of my head. As Elaine Benes famously told Jerry Seinfeld: “I will never understand people.” To which Jerry responded with a fundamental fact about the human condition: