Mine would peg me as insular, avoiding reality, filtering out influence from those with whom I might disagree. But make no mistake – it took a lot of work to get here.
Recently I’ve stumbled into “IRL” conversations about politics – something I mostly avoid – because of the upcoming elections, the theatrics of the candidates, etc. While none of the people I surround myself with is aggressively in favor of any candidate in particular, these conversations did make me realize I’m in the dark about nearly all of them.
That made me go hmm…
Sure, I listen to NPR every day, and names come and go in the notoriously biased conversations on liberal talk radio, but I hadn’t formed any opinions of my own at all pertaining to the upcoming primaries or otherwise.
I asked my friends, how are you hearing so much about these candidates? After all, I know they’re not actually devotees of 24-hour network news. We’re all getting our information the same way – through social media osmosis. And it turns out I’d answered my own question – they were gathering their intel from their Facebook feeds:
“My friends won’t shut up about Bernie Sanders.”
“My friend just posted about how Donald Trump is standing up for political correctness while at the same time accusing Megyn Kelly of PMSing during the debates.”
“John Kasich actually has some smart things to say. I read a thing my friend posted.”
And then I thought of my Facebook feed. Something about my background – befriending radical thinkers in art school, surround myself with misanthropes (being a bit of one myself, so “surround” is a strong word) and misfits, and silencing anyone who spoke out against feminism, gay rights, black lives mattering, Cecil the lion, Barack Obama, or who touted religion of any kind ad nauseam in their Facebook statuses – had curated an incredibly benign social environment when I signed in.
My feed is 90% cute animals, the occasional photo of a baby or a sonogram, and photos of friends traveling. It’s been a passive project over the years, weeding out the things that I find stressful and annoying to be bombarded with in my free time. Some topics are litmus tests for what people really think, and you can just start deleting at will. Other times I just ad hoc mute folks who say things I think are offensively myopic or bigoted. (A quick way to get silenced is by posting Peta shock-imaging.) These arguments have a place, but it’s not on my Facebook wall.
Friends who I’ve talked to about this phenomenon say a lot of things; many say they keep certain people around because their ignorance is funny. Some others, my mom included, feel some obligation to let people be heard, and still gets into upsetting arguments that cause her to lose faith in her friends or humanity at large.
I think “growing up” to some extent with the Internet (AOL happened to me at age nine) has given me the gift of conflict exhaustion in the digital sphere. I come to social media to unwind. Unfortunately, it’s caused me to have a really small pool in which to osmose my information from my peers, but that’s on me. That means I need to read more, listen more, pursue information more. But my Facebook feed will remain vapid, steeped in content that’s trickled down from the r/aww subReddit, and I like it that way.
What’s your Facebook feed like? Why do you think it’s ended up the way it is?