Back in October, Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers wrote a post titled Stop Screaming in my Home. In it, Hank Green likened his social media spaces online to his social spaces IRL, and explained how and why he has taken control of his comments sections in an attempt to clean house (essentially).
I found myself greatly influenced by this article, especially this year. How many of us in the US avoided our social media in the days leading up to the election? How many articles have been written about fake news on Facebook influencing the election? Maybe more importantly, how much of our lives is spent online now?
Personally, I felt that changes needed to be made. So, over the last couple days, I have spent time cleaning house in my social media. This has resulted in a number of decisions:
- I have either unliked or unfollowed almost every page I was following on Facebook
- I have reduced the number of people my blog is following on Twitter from 400 to 148, with more cuts likely to follow
- I have not yet changed the comments section on my YouTube page, but I will be closely monitoring that area should a change be needed
Luckily, I don’t operate on all social media, so my changes didn’t need to be too extensive. Unfortunately, thanks to the work I want to do (and in order to be an informed person and whatnot), I don’t think I can completely cut off news coming into my feeds, so my personal Twitter continues to slowly grow. Even with this growth, I feel that having all of that news media coming in through one source will be incredibly beneficial to my internet experience.
I am not unaware of how my approach to social media and the changes that I’ve made could have some consequences, so I’ve attempted to remain fair in the coverage that I receive. Even so, I do still have rules that I think help to address certain concerns:
The Echo Chamber Concern
People don’t really like to hear voices that don’t agree with them (myself included), and much has been made about social media having become echo chambers, places we go to hear info that only affirms our views. I am certainly guilty of wanting to only hear these affirmations in the hopes that my opinions are right; however, in recognizing the need to hear differing and opposing points-of-view, I have (attempted) to keep connections to people or sources that hold differing viewpoints. Even so, these connections come with rules:
- Just because a news source or person agrees with me, that does not make their presentation of facts wrong. The same can be said for opposing viewpoints. Some objective and subjective determinations will need to be made about what is true.
- If you share, link to, or like posts that are obviously fake, intentionally angry, or are written with the sole purpose of tearing down the other side, you’re getting cut off. I am all for hearing different opinions, but this is my space, and I will not tolerate this type of source material appearing on my pages.
- Clickbait sucks. I’m cutting it off as much as I can.
How Do You Know What’s True/Accurate/Right/Un/Biased?
True/Accurate/Right – obviously I don’t know everything that is true or accurate when I’m reading through news articles or watching internet videos. This is why I watch or read source material in addition to secondary sources to inform myself. I’ve also done my fair share of study in my life, so I have an idea about accurate perspectives on certain topics (which leads to…)
Un/Biased – Everything is biased. Obviously. Even so, bias does not immediately make a presentation wrong (although it certainly can). Bias colors not only the presentation of information, but the interpretation of the presentation (that means you and me as the readers/viewers).
What Gives You the Right?
I have decided that the comments section is our home. If you do anything that would end our friendship if you did it in my actual home after I invited you for dinner, you are banned from ever commenting again. I’m not even sorry. -Hank Green
This is my space. Just because it’s online doesn’t make it any less real than my IRL life. I am of the understanding that some viewpoints are wrong. Some interpretations are wrong. Some of these are things that need to be entertained and discussed; some are not. This decision is obviously in the eye of the beholder (me), but I do not feel bad or dissuaded from “cleaning up” my space. This relates not only to comments, but to others’ posts as well. I cannot force someone to change their minds or keep them away from poor sources, but I can influence my space. I can also provide people with different sources and perspectives, actions which I fully intend to continue.
The solution I’ve come to thus far is not perfect, and will certainly change in the coming days and weeks (and longer). But if the two weeks since the election has shown me anything, it’s that the situation online will get worse before it gets better, and that we’ll be living in this internet reality for a while. I will burn out if I don’t take steps now to control my spaces (believe me: I decided to “like” a bunch of news media on Facebook three weeks before the election, and that was a mistake). This is not some form of censorship, whether you see it as that or not; rather, this is a decision in favor of and a call for decency, respect, active engagement, and learning. Having an open mind does not mean that I need to be open to and entertain hate, lies, misinformation, misinterpretation, or ignorance. Arguments about these things can be taken up in other places — not in my home.