November 9th, 2016. Donald Trump is now the president-elect of the United States last night/today. Like half the country I’m wondering “How the hell did we get here?” There are plenty of think pieces out there about it. I’m not going to say anything new about it. I’m anti-Trump. I think his election is both mind-boggling, and going to a disaster in about every conceivable way.
I can say that watching Facebook and Twitter today as people vented — and everyone on my feeds vented and none celebrated — I just felt like it was such a waste of time and energy. I used to think Facebook was at least useful to keep in contact with my family. See pictures of my nieces and nephews growing up. My siblings and I do chat and connect through it. But there are so many apps that you can communicate electronically now, Slack, GroupMe, Kik, etc, without having to have your soul getting eaten up by Facebook’s White Lies of Happiness and Illusion of Connectivity.
FB has been instrumental in getting me apartments, roommates, jobs, etc, but whose to say that I couldn’t have done that through more social means because I wouldn’t have had my face 18 inches away from a laptop or phone screen for hours a day?
The disconnectedness with half the country is what really irks me though. Historically, the Coasts have and still do always look down upon the states that don’t border a large body of water. But I’m from There. I grew up in Kansas City and lived there most of my first 27 years. Our country has a built-in racist and misogynistic culture, but to me it has grown more conservative and outwardly unabashedly racist since my childhood. Yet, the day-to-day common decency of folks is as present as it always has been. There’s a break in the collective psyche of Midwesterners Whites and the ideals of the country we grew up in that welcomed the Huddled Masses and everyone was entitled to Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. There’s also a break between the children of the Midwest who have moved to the big urban areas, and the towns and states that birthed and raised them. Many folks that live in Blue States and liberal cities come from these large Blocks of red. They tackled opponents on the gridiron, marched in their bands, shot baskets on its hardwood floors, and kicked soccer balls across its never ending soccer fields. We’ve broken from each other and the anger and hate towards each other and towards non-whites is more intense than I can remember. There’s always been the tension, but I don’t remember the unabashed vitriol.
Social media has thankfully been used as a tool to shine lights on injustice. Facebook Live feeds of murder by cop that may have been covered up in the past are now reaching the public’s eyes. It will continue to serve as a tool in this fashion. But Primarily It Divides. It Divides and deepens the darkness in this country. It’s used on the Right to push hate, and lies, and vitriol and has given a hate-monger, Demagogue the White House, and its abused by the Left to ignore those who don’t agree with It.
Like every smart idea that becomes a company. The bigger the company gets, the dumber it becomes. One of the worse sins of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is that it controls which posts by our friends and family come across the feed. We are given no option to access to the raw data of information put in by our fellow online citizens, and instead spoonfed content that they think will keep us online the longest. It’s been completely aggravating tonight, to see on Instagram 23 hours after the fact, pictures posted of my friends voting and getting ready to watch the election. Why these pictures were delayed 23 hours? I have no idea. It’s painful. It’s like listening to a voicemail of someone who has passed since leaving it. And yet, there was no way to control this. What good is Instagram doing me when it can’t provide me realtime information about what my friends are currently doing? Isn’t that supposed to be one if its strengths? The first thing FB asks me every time I log on is “What’s on my mind?” It should say “What’s on your mind that might be relevant to your friends in 12-24 hours?” No algorithm can fix a company’s flawed strategy. Hell, Google is the best at algorithms, and the can’t even get a Social Media company off the ground.
Since 2013, multitasking has been shown by cognitive science to be a myth. Human beings are not more productive when doing it. You can’t watch TV and do homework at the same time. You can’t watch a game on TV, and be a good conversationalist with your date. You can’t take your work with you 24/7, and be a good partner to your significant other. Yet, social media and all apps constantly want to ping is with updates and articles, and engage us much as possible. These “smart devices” are making are lives worse in so many ways. As great as Google Maps or Waze can be in routing you a shorter route through traffic, the other apps are in your phone eat up way more time than you save in traffic.
Most importantly, social media cuts down on time I should be using to create worlds, critically think through issues about stories and my life, and cuts down on face-to-face interaction. I won’t figure out how to make my world any better, both personally and in community, by wasting any more time on Facebook. By letting some third-party app decide what information I get to see from my friends. I get to go back and be in control of that by reaching out to them and talking and hanging out.
Just as important to me, I get back to tackling the humanity of us in my writing, trying to bridge the divide be creating characters that we all relate to, and whose flaws we empathize with. Cause if anything really was the Biggest Loser in this election, and it’s something that Facebook and Twitter is horrible at fostering, it is Empathy.