Less “friends”, more coffee
While three members of the Nebraska House of Representatives voted to gut the Congressional Ethics Office and add $114 billion to the deficit, and Nebraska State Senator Steve Erdman disapproved of George Norris, I celebrated being freed from Facebook, easing my already weak presence in in social networks.
Inconsistency? Hardly. While this percentage has dropped in recent times, studies show that nearly half of all Americans get their news from social media, with Facebook being the most popular platform.
My divorce lasted a month. Part of the agreement is that Facebook keeps all the data that I have ever posted, which, of course, is a small thing in cyberspace. I also cut out “friends,” likes, and a couple of billion potential Zuckerberg connections.
It’s not like I’ve ever had a serious relationship with Facebook. I was a secretive person that I was well suited for, avoiding Facebook friends with details of my life because too much of my “community” was made up of people I only knew online…those we used to call total strangers.
And judging by some of the news about politics, culture, race and the price of eggs, the repeal is long overdue. When they were online, I never worried that a Phi Beta Kappa meeting might start.
I’m not a hermit either. In 25 years of commenting for newspapers, both ink and digital, I have probably revealed more about myself than readers wanted or wanted to know. I’m not quite an open book, but when you show up three or four times a week for readers’ breakfast for years, sharing your observations about the world, after a while you’re in a relationship… not a friend, but a relationship. .
I have a story on Facebook: When my mother died — and I reluctantly posted it on Facebook — I was bombarded with digital condolences from my Facebook friends. Many mourners never knew my mother, so the posts, while cute, were a bit creepy. However, there was a strange sense of community that led to the creation of a Facebook column, partly my fault for all the scathing things I said in print about cat videos, crazy people, and conspiracy theories, staples of Zuckerberg’s little invention.
My recovery was short. I never had friends on Facebook. I need body language, tone of voice, eye contact, or a conversation at Starbucks over coffee. Too old to understand it? Probably. But then came the hacks (you meet the nicest people on the internet) and a new wave of wacky thoughts. So I disconnected, fired a few hundred friends (I stopped accepting requests many years ago) and dropped out of every community I belonged to. None come to mind.
As a result, I was left with three accounts on social networks, two of which – Snapchat and Instagram – I almost never used. Twitter is a source of information that I have become dependent on, as it is used by many professional journalists. However, I am a reluctant user tweeting links to my Nebraska Examiner comment, but otherwise I just like and retweet the votes I find favor with. This was my Twitter story, my account was required by former editors.
Twitter remains my only connection to the social media world, where friends meet, ideas are discussed and promoted, lies are spread and exposed, and if you are so touched, riots are planned.
But I’m barely holding on. New Twitter owner Elon Musk nearly liquidated the company, reinstated accounts promoting harm, removed the accounts of those who publicly disagreed with him, and drastically reduced the number of content editors. The result is coarsening, more confusing conversations laced with racist epithets, playing footsit with violence, and all sorts of nonsense masquerading as the truth. Musk himself retweeted a bizarre clip of horse hockey after husband Nancy Pelosi was attacked at their home.
The good news is that the four million or so Twitter users are nothing compared to the billions of Facebook users (now minus one). However, for those of us in the information business, a strong and healthy Twitter — especially one committed to the truth — can move the needle in the right direction for a democracy where data, facts, science, and the ability to think about them help keep us for free. Especially a democracy where social media is the main source of news.
Who knows? Maybe Musk will block my account after posting this comment, completely removing my social media presence. That would be too bad, because social media provides endless opportunities to inform, educate, and entertain.
We could meet at Starbucks and talk about it.
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