So, it’s not just me.
Many others are hooked on social media chat sites, too, some spending as much as 14 hours a day swiping on their smartphones, according to a TV news report I saw yesterday.
And a lot of us have been sickened by social media.
Readers here have seen some of my recent posts about the trolls and bullies on Twitter who dehumanize and marginalize people through blatant and subtle tweets and retweets. Their goal is to injure, and lord knows, I’ve been injured by it.
The trolls and bullies are aware of the effects of their actions. They’ve all seen It’s a Wonderful Life and have twisted its message to create ripple effects of meanness. It’s a Hateful Life for them.
Hatred has a strong presence on social media sites, as a Toronto Star article looking back at the decade points out.
Our lives were forever changed by social media. Deeper into the decade, as our virtual joy ride grew ever more corrosive, hatred found a place alongside the hilarity and hope on your timeline — and into the mainstream.
Yes, hatred oozed its way into mainstream publications, too. We’ve seen its effects. People have been beaten up in real time. And murdered. So-called incels, transphobes, Islamaphobes and other haters have emerged from the virtual world to commit real acts of terror in our streets. But they were first enabled by social media and all its armchair haters.
So, why don’t the good people just walk away from social media? Tune it out?
Because it’s addictive, as the Toronto Star article points out. And because many good folks feel the need to be there to keep the haters in check.
It’s a vicious virtual circle.
Still, there’s hope in Canada, thanks to the federal government. Reports the Toronto Star in aforementioned article:
Canada, for its part, appears ready to embark on the tricky task of flexing regulatory muscle against hateful content. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month directed newly minted Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault to create a new tranche of social media platform rules, “starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties.” Trudeau said the new regulations must also include other online harms such as “radicalization, incitement to violence, exploitation of children or creation or destruction of terrorist propaganda.” Some form of data privacy protection also is expected as part of Ottawa’s bid to police the platforms.
Of course the haters will cry foul. They’ll complain about their loss of free speech. They will demand the freedom to spread hate on social media, even if the vast majority of them would never stand on a street corner preaching hatred.
I’m on the road to recovery. I’ve put Twitter in its place now: I ignore the haters, and I spend much less time there. Apart from journalists, most of my peers don’t even have accounts on such sites as Twitter and Snapchat.
But it is not so easy for young people to walk away from it all. And they are the most vulnerable.
Hence, one of my fearless predictions for the year to come: we’ll see more therapists and self-help groups reaching out to the addicted masses.
And perhaps in a decade from now, we’ll have social media under control.
That is, if climate change hasn’t wiped it out first, of course.