A lot of research suggests that social media is dangerous. Interestingly, you can read about all the dangers of social media . . .on social media. These articles claim that our usage is making us more depressed, more distracted, and more narcissistic.
I, however, believe social media is making us BETTER people.
In a way.
It is just a theory, but a positive benefit is emerging. In past ages, we learned correct behavior from watching others. Our parents would point to the town drunk, who was begging for money to buy more whiskey, and say “don’t drink too much.” Or annoying neighbors would visit and stay too long, and we learned that overstaying a welcome is inappropriate.
We calibrated our behavior systems through observing the bad examples in our neighborhoods or towns. But now we have so many more data points, thanks to social media. Each day we are exposed to hundreds of negative examples on Facebook, and feed our consciences.
Each time someone’s words or actions make me feel yucky, I ask myself “do I do that?”
We now know it is wrong to argue too long about politics, to troll, to publicly criticize young mothers for not keeping children silent, and to write profanity on another person’s wall. We now know it doesn’t feel right to publicly expose family secrets, overly boast about our children, share news stories without verifying their accuracy, and use public forums for private conversations. We now hesitate to body shame, gender shame, or mock handicaps. And now we know many handicaps are invisible and everyone is suffering in their hearts and we all carry burdens from our traumatic childhoods, so we should not judge each other.
Of course the new media is so new that we have no data on long-term effects. In the meantime, I plan to publicly embarrass you if you ignore my game invitation, or refuse to re-share photos of my cat.
Here is my suggestion. When you witness misbehavior on social media, don’t attack it. Simply commit to do better.