Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Social Media Over 50 Part IV

Social Media Over 50 Part IV 

I did not expect to have to write a part four of my social media rant, but the events over the weekend have left me knowing there is more to say. Honestly, since Sunday morning I have been aghast and dismayed at the happenings in the mainstream media and social media. I have watched in horror as the world turned against a teenage boy because of a facial expression in an edited clip with no context.

I have read the words of acquaintances expressing that the context of the supposed racial attack (a facial expression in a short clip) does not matter. The boy is guilty enough of being a racist that he should be expelled, his parents should be fired from their jobs, and threats of death and violence are completely justified and even encouraged.

The students and parents are having their personal information shared across the Internet, and the school is closed for an undetermined amount of time due to security concerns, threats, and protests from groups like Antifa…. because of a facial expression.

The young man wearing his MAGA hat and waiting for a bus did not say mean words to the elderly man with the drum, and he did not hit or punch the older man. In the full videos, the context is clear. The two hours of video - the before, during, and after - make the situation perfectly clear, and yet the world has lost its mind over seconds of a facial expression.  The videos make it clear that the high school boys were not aggressors, were not chanting “Build the Wall”, and were not harassing the Native American man. The videos show the situation clearly and in context, but so many have already judged the boy to be a racist and condemned him.

I am not sure if this is willful ignorance, or just plain stubbornness to cling to first impressions and close the mind to the whole picture, but this clarifies the power of social media and it is terrifying. It is mob mentality. What I am seeing is that these young men are having their lives ruined by a facial expression - for a facial expression that was deemed so offensive it required life-altering consequences as punishment. Hundreds of thousands of people turned their hate toward a group of teenage boys due to a facial expression taken out of context. 

On social media, we can all be judge and jury. On social media, we can be vigilantes. On social media, we can right the wrongs we perceive in society through threats, violence, and hate. On social media, context and the truth are not important, only our self-righteous rage matters.

I think we’ve reached a new level of insanity. Are we truly to a point where a facial expression is enough to unhinge our society? If so, those with resting bitch face better watch out, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the social media mobs.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Social Media Over 50 Part III

Social Media Over 50 Part III

I suppose I am cynical. I laugh at that thought because I knew in my 20s, as a single mother, I would never be surprised again, and that I was cynical. My cynicism has reached a new level in the last ten years on social media.

I am grateful social media didn’t exist when I was a child, working through the trials and heartaches and awkwardness of adolescence. When I was a kid, I lost a friend each year of high school; one in a hunting accident, another by playing with baseball bats on mailboxes on a rural road, and the third from an undiagnosed heart issue. These days kids lose their friends from suicides, or being abducted or lured away by pedophiles met on the interwebs. 

Studies have shown over again that social media leads to depression, and my own experience shows me this as well. Typically, I would get my coffee in the morning, look over the media, and even if I woke feeling great, I would soon descend into a lesser state. I do wonder if the same thing happened as we had our coffee and perused the morning paper, perhaps it did, but the paper was actually a paper, easily thrown away, burned or recycled. The paper did not have a pulsing blue light behind it with an instant response to your opinion.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, there was no such thing as revenge porn, where a lover could record you and send it out to twenty thousand people, who copied and reposted and sent it to another twenty thousand. When I was in my younger years no one sent me dick pictures because they would have to take the film to be developed – I laughed at the thought of the person handing the pictures over the counter. When I was younger I had a couple friends who I’d talk to on the phone, old landlines, now I have over 300 friends and I’m not sure if I’ve had a real conversation with 90% of them, or if I would even know them if I met them in the grocery.

An interesting thing about social media is that we get our news in memes, some funny, some truth, some lies, but after seeing so many posts it becomes hard to discern the truth. And on social media the need/wanting to be accepted by your peers is even stronger than it was when we were young. On social media we post our selfies - look how great I look, look how happy I am, look at all my friends.

I do recognize that I am odd. I’ve never been one for “girls nights” or lunches, I have never been popular, I’ve never been a bridesmaid, and I don’t have a “tribe”.  I am one of those folks who like to read books, write them sometimes, and think about the “what if” things.

Before you call me a hypocrite because I’m still on social media, I will say that I have met some nice folks on the board that I would not have met without it. Some of those folks are close to my heart, and we have had real conversations, and sometimes phone calls. Also, I will say reconnecting with old best friends from elementary school and seeing what they did with their lives, and how they followed their passions have been inspiring – one name stands out, and what she’s done with her life and passion almost makes social media worth it. She and I lost touch after high school, but she is living the dream she always wanted.

On social media I am inundated by memes about love, light, and acceptance of every-damned-thing. But the love is marred, the light is muddy, and the acceptance is mostly not acceptable. On social media, I think too many times that someone is protesting too much - and after the tenth post how they love their new “hook-up”, and then they are broken up and hate each other three months later …  yes, I am cynical.

Social media is mentioned in a third of all divorces these days. 

Yes, I have grown cynical after ten years on social media, and I’d wager that most of us have, although we probably don’t talk about it as we post another picture.

I know that I miss the times before when we lived our lives, however grand or normal they were, and didn’t require the attention and opinions of 300 or 1000 strangers to comment upon them.

On social media, we are all stars. On social media, we are all important. On social media, our lives are fabulous.

I guess, in hindsight, I miss when we knew that fact on our own and didn’t need likes to prove it to us. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Social Media Over 50 Part II

Social Media Over 50 Part II 

I cut my Internet teeth on forums, before social media was popular among the middle aged. On the forums - I was always drawn to conspiracy or alternative ideas - the people weren’t nice, but the ideas were explored. On the forums, it was no big deal to be called an asshat, a moron, or an idiot, and people took it in stride.

I also had a freelance position at a now defunct Internet newspaper. I wrote under my own name and scoured the back pages of Google to give enough information to help the reader consider a different view than the one on the mainstream media. Something changed though, a change of administrations, and suddenly those back pages began disappearing. 

Sites that I used to rely on to give and share the local news from their hometowns began being censored. I suppose the new word is shadow banned, but in reality their sites were just shut down due to a myriad of reasons, and then even on the back pages of searches you’d still find the same approved articles that were on the front page. It began to be harder and harder to do my little, unpaid, freelance job.

On the forums, and lots of sites I used to visit you could be anonymous, which I found led to greater truth. You could speak your experience, without fear of censor, and pick out a cute picture (or a terrifying one), and give yourself a name, but then the media began pushing the bullying aspect, and the anonymous thing began to disappear.

Even though I had read the books about fascist societies, I was shocked to see it happening in real life, in my lifetime. Suddenly you had to register on a site, and use your real name, give your phone number, and the real time information flow began to slow down. I remember watching videos of happenings in this place or the other and the video would disappear, cut from the flow in real time – censored.  Suddenly, people could proclaim that an idea, thought, or fact was offensive and it was gone in minutes.  

I quit writing for that international paper shortly after a change of administrations. In one I could tell the truth as I saw and researched it, but in the other I understood I could no longer do that, it simply wasn’t worth the risk. Around that time social media became the big thing among us old folks.

And with social media, we began self-censoring. No longer can you call someone an asshat, and challenge his or her thoughts. On social media, everyone is kind, and those who are not must be mentally ill.

On social media, everyone has a good day. On social media, everyone is beautiful. On social media, we seek validation from our “peers”.  On social media, we lose part of ourselves trying to please and impress our “friends”.

Before you call me an asshat, moron, or idiot, which I undoubtedly am, let me state that I am just as guilty as anyone else and that is exactly why I’m writing this blog. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Social Media Over 50

Social Media Over 50 

I was late to the Internet. Dabbled with it in the late 90s at home, and learned systems as work dictated though the 2000s.  As a drummer in a band I worked on MySpace a bit to get followers.

In 2005, we killed cable in the house (mostly due to the coverage of Hurricane Katrina), and then, seeking information, I found some sites I still consider home.

In 2009, I was introduced to social media…

At first I was confused why the people who bullied and threatened me in high school were sending me “friend” requests, and I cried, reliving the memories of how hard school was for me.

Then I started getting messages asking if my husband and I were swingers, they’d seen us somewhere playing together as a band, and were just asking if they could have sex with us.

My Internet experience at this point was on conspiracy sites where you were challenged, and insults were steady, but ideas were hashed out.

Then I started writing, and sometimes I cried when an article would receive 20,000 views in a day.

Perhaps I am odd, but it scared me - so many people seeing me, and my thoughts, but not really knowing me. I felt like a target. I was not a trained journalist, but I could disseminate many articles on a subject down to the pebbles of truth. And I was threatened, not just with lawsuits, but other things …

And then social media happened.

At that point I had figured out that writing non-fiction was very dangerous for my health, and began writing fiction.

Social media …

Now, I hesitate to post or write the truth as I know and have researched. I think twice before stating an opinion. As hard as it was getting 20,000 views in a day, and responding to a hundred emails, these days on social media I’m worn out by six or twelve responses.

Social media is a new concept in a relatively old world. It used to be the newspapers worked out the editorials, but now every reply is instant and in your house.

On social media I have been more attacked than when I was just writing a blog; on social media I’ve been hit on more than when I was young, cute, and hot in the bars; on social media I am even more afraid of opinions than when I was in high school.

On social media my husband received several private messages to calm his wife down from a (former) mutual friend because I challenged his “facts”. On social media another friend, a married friend, suggested we should be friends with benefits with no strings.

The thing about “social” media is that I never would’ve spoken to these folks again after high school, or after a single meeting. I would not have sought out anyone from the past unless I was still talking to them on a regular basis, and I wouldn't be in touch after an art show. Some could say I am anti-social, but I’m not, I’m just confused.

I’m confused why suddenly I have friend requests from people who were not actually friends wanting to see my life. I am confused why I accept their requests. Do I want to see their lives?  And honestly, at over half-a-century, does it even matter anymore?

I’m confused why I barely know my family’s phone numbers but can reach them on social media.

I am 53, and I remember when we used to know our friends phone numbers, and we knew who our friends were, but now we have all these “friends”. 

Do we have any real friends anymore? 

As usual, keep seeking, and for the love that all is good, keep asking questions.