I was on Facebook one afternoon six months into the COVID pandemic, checking my friends’ posts of their pets, kids and fall foliage, when a petition rolled into view.
Over twelve years with Facebook I’ve collected followers from many stages in my life. My only child is camera shy and I usually think her exposure should be her own choice, so most of my posts are cats, food and infrequent travel.
I love seeing the status of old friends with whom I otherwise would have lost touch. Posts that demonstrate we share the same take on the world are the ones I find especially uplifting. The ones who seem obsessed with their children’s accomplishments, or drunken group events, or political derangement, not so much. I give them time and if it’s too much for me, and we appear to have little world view in common, I stop following them.
I understand that many have done the same with my feed. So the curated group whose posts are left make my scrolling fairly peaceful when I’m in a social mood.
Because I follow my university alma mater, on this particular afternoon I was urged to sign a petition against removing a tradition some students deemed offensive. I agreed they should keep the tradition but I was feeling tolerant and scrolled past. I have a teenager and accept that young people are reflexively rebellious.
While practicing a bit of guided mindful meditation the next morning, my Air Pods interrupted with a text from a family member: “Conflict raging” at my alma mater in the national news. Thankfully I tuned it out and got back to peaceful gratitude for a few more minutes, before returning to my news feeds and texting.
What we see in any media now, like my Facebook timeline, has been curated to keep us coming back, many times every day, especially during pandemic lockdowns. My hope lately is that, as there are more things to do other than scroll through our phones, people who enjoy getting riled up can take more breaks to experience reality. The actual world is not optimized to suit each person’s viewpoint. In the virtual world you can choose exactly what to see. In the actual world, it’s nearly impossible not to run across an opposing view as you go about living real life.
Strict divisions are artificial. We should remember that, when we’re somewhat driven to live hunched over our phones. Please realize when you step out to walk among flesh and blood humans, they have curated their own virtual world that differs from yours. In reality we share much more in common than the media surroundings we cultivate have led us to believe!
I still haven’t signed the petition, but I am thinking about it.
For more on how social media works to divide us see BIG TECH BACKLASH on Fox News.