Remember when social media was fun?
When you caught up with classmates and saw pictures of your niece’s wedding.
When you saw where people were vacationing and what they ate for lunch and what astronomical miles had just rolled over on someone’s odometer.
When it was about baptisms and dogs and chemotherapy.
When it truly was social media – a way for people to be in touch, to exchange information and friendship.
And then 2016 came.
In the aftermath of a presidential election, the torrent was unleashed, and social media was pretty much ruined. It all became hate. Tweet after post after pin. One political tribalist after another spewing hate and invective to those who dared to have a contrary view.
It wasn’t conversation, it was riot, a verbal beat down of anyone with a divergent view.
Often in the vilest terms, with no reason or courtesy, just the words of violence and hate pumped like sewage across social media.
Instead of a way to keep in touch, or to learn new things, or to see the ideas and knowledge of others, it became a free-media way to club others into social submission, to use networks of friendship or interest to intimidate and brutalize.
Sometimes by people you knew, sometimes by people you didn’t know, sometimes by paid operatives flooding as much as they could with as much as they could.
Curs befouling your news feed with their filth.
It bubbled over for me last week when any number of presumably intelligent people defended the use of the word “cunt” to describe a woman whose father they disagreed with politically. They defended this misogynistic slur with angry passion, almost enthroning the word.
That was enough for me.
And I started blocking people.
I pushed the button, and they were gone from my social media world. Gone. Period. Evaporated.
I’ve since blocked dozens.
I refuse to let my social media time, or my group of friends, be their political toilet paper. A snotty jab and you’re gone. Bye bye. I promise never to think of you again.
For months, I’ve muted or unfollowed the most obnoxious and ambitious of posters. A couple of years ago I stopped posting public comments on my online column. My thought was to quietly turn away. Let them rage on, but let them rage on out of my hearing.
Muting is the polite way to disengage.
But I’m not feeling very polite right now.
I want to shut these people off and I want them to know they are shut off.
I do not want to be an unwitting accomplice in either their rage or their propaganda. If you’re a jerk, you’re gone.
I recommend others do the same. Whether you have a small circle or large, there’s no room for skunks at the garden party.
Or weeds in the garden.
Blocking obnoxious people is like pulling weeds in the garden of your social media. It removes the useless and distracting, and leaves more room for the good and worthy to grow.
Is this burying one’s head in the sand? Is blocking angry partisans building walls instead of bridges?
Personally, I follow many people I disagree with. But they are able to express themselves with politeness or grace, wit or charm. I love great minds, I hate dark hearts. I don’t care what you say, I care how you say it. And a jerk is a jerk is a jerk.
So start blocking today.
Make social media social again. Keep in touch with people you care about, follow subjects and people that interest you, take part in an exchange of ideas and beliefs, not insults and attacks.
And don’t be a jerk yourself.
As you post, even about politics or other things close to your heart, do so with a spirit you can be proud of. Don’t be dull or timid, but use wit and intelligence, not insult and abuse. Hold your light high, but hold it with manners and class.
And be aware of the anger and contention that can creep in. Make sure you do not become seduced by and addicted to the thrill of the fight, the intoxication of the rage. Life is not about anger or fighting.
And political discussions should be about love of country, not hatred of opponent. It’s about building American, not tearing down the other side.
Don’t you leave muddy footprints on anyone else’s carpet, and don’t you let anyone else leave muddy footprints on yours.
Just block them. As many as you need to.
Make social media social again.