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Woster: Have social media anger? Let's take a holiday disconnect

As time has passed, more social media content has become toxic, antagonistic and deliberately provocative, intended to do little more than anger those with different thoughts and opinions.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster
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To unclutter my mind and perhaps lift my spirits during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have decided to take a break from social-media sites I regularly visit.

Old person that I am, I will continue to check in with Facebook from time to time. I have a few old friends who regularly use that site. My college roommate, a good guy I have not seen in person for decades, occasionally puts up a photograph or a short comment. I like those. And several family members post and comment. It is important to keep up with the family.

But my other social media platforms have become too much. Several years ago, social media helped me connect with factual, informative news sources. It was great. As time has passed, more content has become toxic, antagonistic and deliberately provocative, intended to do little more than anger those with different thoughts and opinions.

Conflict has always been part of human interaction, of course. For much of my life, though, straight-out, in-your-face conflict between humans was limited. That seemed true in the early days of social media, too. It appears to me that, as people have felt more freedom to be obnoxious and confronting in often anonymous online interactions, so have we become more willing to be that way in our in-person relationships. I don’t know about you, but I dislike that trend.

I decided to give it a rest after a comment about Dr. Anthony Fauci recently on one of my sites. Fauci is a controversial guy in the era of COVID-19 and its many variants. He also is learned about infectious diseases. With COVID, he advised social distancing and masking and, after vaccines were developed, getting shots and boosters. Some responded to his message. Others did not.

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Look, people don’t have to do something someone else recommends, not unless it is a law or a regulation with the force of law. Even then, they can refuse, if they are prepared to accept the consequences of refusing. That’s how things work.

Speeding, for example, is against the law. People may speed, anyway, but then they have no legitimate complaint if a trooper lights them up and tickets them for the violation. Of course, the offenders can challenge the citation in court. They may win. They may not. But they have options — and consequences.

Back to social media platform and Dr. Fauci. As I said, I have been growing increasingly discontented with the transformation of much content from fact-based information to wild screeds, from reality to deliberate distortion and disinformation. Scrolling through posts and comments has become a real downer. It’s like a bad trip without the chemicals. Worse, I have come to realize that I often leave my device disheartened, my spirits like a sandy, soggy pile of beach towels carelessly crumpled on the bathroom floor.

The Fauci stuff made me feel that way. A poster somewhere repeated a Fauci recommendation that people update vaccinations before heading out for Thanksgiving gatherings. The poster then said they hated Fauci more than any other person in public life and the second-place person was nowhere close.

My goodness. How does anyone reach that level of anger about a public health recommendation? I thought about responding, then thought again. I often find myself wanting to respond to a post. I often find the delete button. I do that now and then — draft a scathing response, read it over a few times for self-satisfaction and hit the delete button. It is modern technology’s version of that old advice to pour out your feelings in a long, angry letter and then drop it in the waste basket.

The Fauci thing was far from the worst I’ve seen. Far from it. This one just tipped things over. I guess I’ve been headed that way for a while.

I hope that by not visiting the offending sites, I have more time to a) visit more legitimate news sites that do exist, b) read some of the books stacked around the house and c) start and end my days with quiet contemplation of the world and my place in it.

Perhaps I go more gently through the holiday season.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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