On 14th March 2019, Facebook and its family of apps including Instagram took a hit and users experienced the effects of a 24-hour outage.
Findings have shown that engagement on all social media platforms has been decreasing and analytics companies have been looking into why.
Twitter has become the chosen platform to publicly address service providers, producers, manufacturers and other companies we use. While we still receive regular demands to give feedback via controlled customer satisfaction survey (although MyHermes have been quiet since leaving a parcel on my doorstep!) the best way to get a response is via a Tweet @thecompany – even though the social media companies now employ legions of people to field these posts, often with buffers such as “we can only speak to the account holder”. Although, in cases of discussing sensitive information, this is understandable.
Pinterest is the Internet scrapbook, allowing users to display pictures with links to keep a clear display of articles and other things that have interested them and this means actual interaction is almost non-existent, which means it is not for human connection. Facebook has the greatest flexibility but personal posts literally drown in adverts, content and memes and with the newest algorithm, it is like a bottomless magazine without a letters page. Instagram seems to be holding the human connection end up and allows artists and young people to interact with fans, friends and followers via pictures with links.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale of mean words, Goodreads, a website targeted particularly to independent authors who pay for free books to be sent to reviewers, has really become the battleground for the war of words. With sensitive souls exposed by authors who have put their hearts on the sleeve of their books, readers have made these beating valves into the punchbag of Disgrunted “Mean Behind the Screen” of Tunbridge Wells
This has resulted in a wave of people leaving social media and deactivating their accounts. The bottomless magazine of Facebook with all its content, despite its efforts to stay as a social media platform, has made it easier for people to not engage rather than be consumed by their timelines.
The experience of social media and how it is used must surely vary greatly between generations and age groups. To those of us in what is known as Generation X, Facebook was the stage on which great reunions were set as I graduated in 1993 into the bottomless pit of a huge recession and my college buddies went back to their respective homes overseas and we lost touch until one of us found everyone else on Facebook,including the art teacher. I had already tried and failed as finding people always feels a bit stalkery.
For those of us over 40 – some us still talk on our mobiles with the device next to our ear but we must all beware of beryllium – interacting is ingrained as a two-way thing with consideration for the person we are speaking to. Before the Internet, people mostly interacted only with people they knew or worked with.
Today we are at risk of being caught in the cross hairs of complete strangers shooting out uninformed assumptions based on a flippant Facebook quip. What started as a very entertaining, rolling on the floor laughing, source of word wizardry, Twitter and Facebook, plus other sites that allow people to write to anyone they like, have become vicious for anyone who sticks their head over the parapet of expectation.
We have become Communication Nazis laying minefields of unspoken protocols, hashtag uses, clickbait headlines and political correctness with celebrities bearing the most brunt with the Katie Hopkins of the world armed with indifference versus the soul bearing artists attracting unwanted attention from the masses who have been released from the impotent feeling of being ignored for so long by print media that they are spraying their incontinence as far afield as they can.
My generation still uses all form of interaction to make real life social arrangements, as we were born with telephones – not chatting for hours down the curly wire like our mothers did – and then as we entered this millennium we were rescued from waiting to meet someone at a station, dangling like a lost child by the barriers, legs crossed and scared to go for a pee should we miss the meeting, because by the year 2000 we could go to the pub and text where we were sitting in the warmth indoors with a drink. I remember seeing way too much of the inside of Earl’s Court Station and still remember seeing the little yellow opening envelope flashing with a 1 on my little Nokia handset and wondering what it was. Then I slowly replied, “Am in White Horse pub opposite tube” tapping each number key to change the letter.
Anyone born since 2000 would have seen Facebook arrive before they reached double figures and would find themselves sucked into a real life bonfire of the vanities. Daisy Ridley, an actor in the latest Star Wars film, has left Instagram and says social media is: “highly unhealthy for people’s mental health”.
It might be a social grouping thing or an age thing, however people who have the chance to interact in person with friends will be much less likely to get feisty on their keyboard. Any form of bullying, emanating from one person such as a domineering partner right up to full scale war all share a clearly recognisable set of characteristics, which a savvy page admin or website manager could place firmly outside their users’ agreements to avoid arguments about what is freedom of speech and what is abuse.
Abuse ranges from personal attacks, name-calling, rudeness, aggression, criticism, judgment, unsolicited advice or persistent messaging. However is sounds to the receiver, it is always about the sender, never personal, it is off-loading, attention-seeking, a power-grab, jobsworth or someone lacking any self-awareness. If they don’t consider you, how do they know the first thing about you? They don’t so nothing they say matters. Arguing with trolls is like a driver trying to get a tailgater to back off by driving more slowly. It never works and the only remedy is to ignore them. Interacting with trolls is like being the only one at a book group who has read the book.