Admit it – the other day when Facebook and all of their entities were down, you had a moment of “well what am I going to look at today?”
The pervasiveness of social media in our day to day lives has grown to the point that a single day of Facebook and Instagram being down led to a barrage of memes, and widespread confusion amongst the online masses.
I’ll be honest, I almost can’t remember a time without Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and every app since. We grew up in the advent of social media, and it has fundamentally changed the framework of not just the lives of my generation, but every generation.
The interconnectedness it brings us is revolutionary. I maintain close friendships and daily conversations through GroupMe, Instagram, and Twitter conversations. Even when I just want to relax, I can have a conversation and play games with friends across the country over Xbox Live.
But the depth with which all of these platforms have penetrated not just our social lives, but our public discourse, political conversation, and nearly every other facet of life has always given me pause.
We see it everyday. People hiding behind anonymous (and sometimes not so anonymous) online handles spreading misinformation and attacking others in a personal and socially unacceptable manner.
If you’ve never done it, pick a political figure of each party and read through the replies to their posts. Sometimes, you get lucky and there are people sharing genuine support, but most of the time, toxic is the nicest way to describe how people react.
As debate continues around internet censorship, and now with details and Congressional testimony around Facebook’s practices, I don’t know if there is a right answer to balance free speech and disinformation. But I know, and I’m sure everyone out there, knows someone who has fallen victim to edited, if not outright false, information posted on the internet.
Advice I give all my friends and family is take whatever you read with a grain of salt. If it sounds too good or too bad to be true, it probably is.
The internet is the Wild West of the 21st Century. We’ve never had more voice or freedom, and many will take advantage of that for their own ends. Social media has it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The challenge is knowing which is which.