The court of social media opinion is a dangerous thing

A few days ago, I deleted a Facebook post for the first time. There are many reasons why.

The deleted post was shared with library friends. It was a comment on a Twitter frenzy about something that happened recently at a library conference in Canada. Essentially what I wrote was that I have never thought much of the person at the center of the controversy, in spite of all the accolades and acclaim that person has received over the years. I wrote that my assessment didn’t make me somehow better, and that the whole situation seemed rather sad to me.

The primary reason I deleted this post was I think it was inherently an attack and an expression of “I told you so.” I am ashamed at that reaction on my part. I don’t think it added anything to the conversation but instead was a veiled put down. It wasn’t the right thing for me to do.

Another reason I deleted the post is that upon reflection, it seemed to me to feed into the current fad of rushing to judgment via social media. In my view, the court of social media opinion is a dangerous thing. All I had to go on were various Twitter posts, sharing second- and sometimes third-hand about an incident at an event that I wasn’t part of. I wasn’t present and didn’t have hardly any context.

This is not to excuse in any way what the person said or did. From what I read, what was said and done were completely wrong. However, the person apologized, and the person to whom the wrong was done accepted the apology.

I wish, for myself as well as for others, a more reflective and less reflexive approach to hot topics on social media. Sure, social media has done and continues to do a great deal of good, bringing things to light that traditional communication outlets are slow to publish or publish at all. Social media is a great force for political and social change, and perhaps changes in other areas as well. I am an avid participant in and consumer of social media. But sometimes I think a sort of mob mentality kicks in and we all pile on to some topic or another. This isn’t unique to social media but the speed and scope that such activity can take are certainly accelerated or expanded by this particular form of communication and information sharing. To me, that makes it a bit dangerous at times.

Also, it seems to me that social media can often be a great echo chamber. People who participate in it may come to think or assume that everyone in their circles agrees with and buys into the topic du jour. A huge proportion of what I read in social media — and I’m referring to topics where it seems like everyone and his brother are chiming in with the same message — is stuff that I try to listen to and engage with. But that does not mean I agree with it all. The fact is, I don’t. I want to understand and engage with what is being talked about. I want to learn and grow in perspective. But that doesn’t mean I always agree or ever will agree. And that is the way it should be, in my view. I deliberately seek out and appreciate friendships with people on social media who have different mindsets and backgrounds from my own. Sometimes this makes me very uncomfortable, often this makes me angry or upset, but again, I think that’s a good thing.

Obviously, though, I’m very, very far from perfect in this whole social media thing. This post, about my ill-conceived Facebook comments, is an open acknowledgment of that fact.

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