Following our discussion on the Mac & Forth Show Podcast over the last two weeks it appears many of our listeners are also losing interest in the relentless stream of diatribe they experience when using their social media platforms of choice, the main culprits being Facebook and Twitter.
Initially, both of these platforms offered a wonderful opportunity to reach and engage with a huge number of friends, associates, organisations, companies and celebrities. But recently there seems to have been a change that has resulted in a far more aggressive and argumentative experience.
I know that some people actually enjoy and relish this swing to a more confrontational participation and see it as a welcome change from all the kitten videos and selfies that seemed to dominate in the past. But in my view, things have gone a bit too far and I long to return to those seemingly more innocent days, no matter how trivial and banal some might consider them to be.
Many of us live hard and complicated lives, facing struggles every day, and so a little bit of social media browsing at the end of the day should be a great way to relax and have fun - a little oasis of calm. But I can't help thinking that the constant deluge of negativity and bullying that now permeates these popular social media sites is having the exact opposite effect with the potential to adversely affect our psychological well-being.
It can't have escaped anyone's notice that the two main polarising political issues of recent months were the American election of President Trump and the British vote for Brexit. I've been shocked and deeply dismayed to see the sheer volume of negative, snarky posts and articles shared by people on both sides of these divisive issues. What's been most depressing to me is that some of my friends and family have jumped on this bandwagon too.
There appears to be very little mutual respect and tolerance towards those offering differing opinions and any discussion quickly descends into a disturbing battle of insults and tit-for-tat accusations. I certainly have no wish to engage with this sort of futile squabbling - in fact, I don't even want to see it at all!
So as I mentioned on the Mac & Forth show, I was all but ready to give up on social media completely. I started to wonder if there was anything I would really miss. I have a pretty healthy real-world social life here in the UK, and the only issue I might run into is the lack of communication with my long-standing International friends, many of whom I have never actually met face to face but nonetheless share a strong online friendship. But clearly there are many other ways to maintain such online relationships using less public media like Email, Messaging and even FaceTime. So I concluded that, on balance, my social media activity really could come to an end, and my life would be all the better for that.
However, just before I pulled the plug, I received an email from one of our listeners who had wrestled with the very same issues, but had decided on a very different way forward - instead of just ditching the platforms, he decided to go to work on them and bend them to work the way he wanted.
Inspired by this, I decided to roll up my digital sleeves and see if I could tame my own feeds and try to regain some semblance of normalcy once again.
In just twenty minutes or so within the Tweetbot iOS app, I added a series of muted words and hashtags and simply unfollowed a number of folks who no longer followed me, or who were now posting negative stuff that I just don't want to see. I also took the chance to unfollow several brands and organisations along with many celebrities (who appear to live on a different planet most of the time anyway).
The result was quite surprising and very pleasing. Twitter (or Tweetbot in my case) is actually a nice application to open once again. My Timeline is now full of interesting links, fun posts and informative discourse. Gone is the torrent of bile, intolerance and bigotry that was getting me down.
I am by no means a precious little snowflake, but I just wanted my social media to be social again. Is that too much to ask? Clearly the answer turns out to be no, and the timely arrival of a listener's email inspired me to claim back my Twitter feed and make it a place that I am happy to visit again and again as a fully engaged member.
Next challenge? Facebook! :-)
Photo: Jessica Flavin CC BY-ND 2.0
Edited by: Alan Vickers