Choose Wisely: Social Media Can Be Friend Or Foe

Lots of friends are leaving or at least cutting back on social media exposure. There’s too much negativity, too many lies, too much sales and not enough meaningful interactions.

And I get it.

I have learned things about longtime friends that I do not want to know. For many, it is a window into the soul that tells me that I have been frighteningly wrong about the hearts and world views of many.

Then there are the people who provoke feelings of inadequacy because their lives look so perfect. They’re buying cars and taking expensive trips you could never afford. Plus, there’s always someone peddling something. That high school friend who ignored you for twenty years until she decided to sell 31 bags comes to mind.

Social media can be downright annoying and sometimes hard on your mental health.

But there is good too. Facebook and Instagram have given me access to all sorts of people and information that would otherwise be much more difficult to find.

That’s why I am careful of how I cultivate my feeds. There are some people who I unfollowed years ago because I know their contribution to my world is detrimental. They bring stress and negativity. They don’t earn their keep because they only point out the wrong without offering solutions. They have nothing good to say about anything.

I like people who can be realistic, who talk about the bad but encourage intelligent dialog. These are my people.

I follow some news organizations that report fairly and thoroughly. I belong to groups and pages that provide me with beautiful images, inspiring words, book recommendations, travel ideas, vegetarian recipes, mid century advertising, home decor ideas and all the other things I find interesting.

I know which pages have followers with useful comments and which pages to avoid the comments. Blocking trolls and scammers is easy. So is unfollowing a page that you don’t care for anymore.

In other words, I manipulate social media to make it work for me.

Instagram seems to naturally attract a more positive audience than Facebook so I’m starting to dwell more there.

If you don’t believe me, follow CBS Sunday Morning on both platforms and study the responses on each. Say they post a story about visiting a national park. On Instagram, the comments will mostly be from people saying how much they love that place, want to visit, vacation memories are amazing, etc. On Facebook, that same story is loaded with complaints and people who blame this president or that one for something totally unrelated. It’s like they’re just looking for a soapbox to vent whatever asinine thing is on their mind.

People really can take anything good and mangle it into a travesty.

All the same, social media has given me a chance to connect with people I have met once in real life. If not for social media, I wouldn’t have taken the Ford Tri-Motor airplane ride last year. I wouldn’t be anxiously awaiting the West Virginia Book Festival where I will finally get to meet author William Kent Krueger this fall. I would not have found the Apple Seed storytelling podcast that has brought me great joy.

The Whole 30 would be much harder if not for social media as it has helped me find great recipes for black bean meatballs and realistic ideas for batch cooking. I may never have found the British version of the sitcom Ghosts!

Cousins scattered across the country would be mere names in a family tree instead of friends. A quiet coworker who loves her cats, flowers and rocks would just be a nice lady I chat with briefly. The man I connected with in a fascinating conversation about race while standing in line at a historic house would just be a memory.

This book! I saw a review in a book group and knew it was for me. I’m halfway through and it’s wonderful!!

HOW would I get all my ideas for random road trips? Sometimes they send me to get a grilled cheese sandwich in a great diner two hours away only to discover a neat abandoned theater and country roads that feed my soul. You never know where one simple tip will lead!

So yeah. Social media can be terrible. But my life is richer thanks to social media. It’s all about how you choose to use it and who you allow to have a voice. Not everyone deserves space in your head so they certainly don’t deserve space in your social media feed.

Choose wisely.

Unfollowing Social Negativity

I belong to a number of Facebook groups that relate to topics I find interesting. Books, plant based eating, solo hiking, road tripping, photography- you get the idea. There are tons of them and they are both small collections of people as well as large groups with thousands of strangers presumably trying to play nice with others.

Each one represents quite the social experiment but have potential to be exhausting and even toxic. I have been slowly disengaging from these groups and even leaving.

Earlier this week, a lady posted a picture in a mid-century finds group. It was a darling little cat broach that she bought out of the display case at a thrift store where she volunteers. The purchase was made fair and square as it had been made available to customers before she snatched it up.

Many people were happy for her but several jumped in and complained that volunteers shouldn’t be able to beat other customers to the deals. That’s what’s wrong with the world, according to one Negative Nancy. Volunteers get all the good stuff.


I’m guessing those doing the complaining on that post don’t do much volunteering.

In a plant based group, someone posted a picture of their scrumptious looking smoothie, excited about her healthy choice. A commenter immediately jumped in to say “too bad you’re ruining it with a plastic straw.”

The list goes on and on.

It’s always interesting to me how different we all are and how we view the world through such different lenses.

One person loves an author while another can’t tolerate them. Someone else thinks that the opposing political party is signaling the end of the world while their candidate should be up for sainthood.

I enjoy a variety of topics and opportunities to learn. Yet, some become so tuned into their own agenda, their own view of the world, it’s impossible for them to see what really matters or to even recognize the truth sometimes.

If you’re looking for a red car, you’re only going to see red cars. If you’re looking for trouble or bias or someone to pick on, that’s what you’re always going to see.

I left one plant based group this week because I realized that no one there even understood the definition of plant based and they weren’t interested in learning. Anytime the subject came up, responses began with “I think” or “I feel.” My response always was a Harvard article that analyzes the plant based movement quite nicely.

No one there was interested in fact and expertise. I’m not especially interested in uninformed opinions.

And you see it playing out time and again as people can’t tell you the simplest things about American history but are somehow experts on current affairs that are deeply rooted in history. They don’t bother to read the story, instead basing an opinion on a headline or on someone’s Facebook meme.

They don’t understand that scientists don’t change their minds. They get new data and learn from it, a practice the rest of us could benefit from trying. They don’t care that research has to be funded by someone and that a study paid for by one industry and villainizing another isn’t especially trustworthy.

I’m finding myself becoming cranky with the hive mind of social media groups and the willful ignorance of individuals. I don’t enjoy negativity and all around crankiness so this really sucks..

Consequently, I’m gradually clicking the Unfollow button or sometimes the Leave Group button because I’m simply happier without the group.

Sometimes you can actually add to your quality of life by subtracting.

And so ends my rant. Hopefully you will be inspired to cut out some of the social negativity in your life and that I’m not part of the purge!