Social Media: Oh The Worries, As Well As The Benefits!
Oh the wonders, and dangers, of social media!
We noticed this week that a local official got bounced from his volunteer role on a local board because he started getting nasty — really nasty — on Facebook... and got caught. No, it's not in the papers yet. But it's real.
Ditto the whole mess involving meetings, and email invitations and purported promises to meetings, that's been enveloping our nation's capital, and entire news cycle (outside community papers) this week.
On my own front, we had some good news that we broadcast — a family thing — which quickly generated dozens of comments and hundreds of likes on my family's Facebook page. Not only capturing a sense of the way news keeps happenings beyond deadlines, but also inspiring a sense of community enthusiasm along the way.
But then someone pointed out that our big blast of enthusiasm on a personal side could draw problems, as in people trashing what we were about to achieve. In other words, some form of legal jinxing.
So we took down all we posted and — woof! — it disappeared from everyone's Facebook's feeds who'd been part of the posting and its responses in the first place. Talk about speed and apparent magic.
This all happened concurrent with my having taken the bait of a friend's posting about declines in Upstate New York. It was the usual stuff we've heard for years, all about how ours may be the worst place to live in this country. All about bad taxes and no employment, declining civic engagement and bad politics. Dark stuff..
But reading carefully I realized that the journals mentioned as references were never named, nor were any of the towns talked about. And so I called him on it... at which point he got quite defensive, saying that even if the news was false the sentiments were true.
Others joined in the argument, bringing in similar reports about Upstate... but all were at least a decade old. And I noted how despite all the bad being reported, ours was a state where people worked hard to meet challenges and improve their lots, from Binghamton to Buffalo, from Newburgh to Rochester, with all the smaller, more rural places in between keeping up their best, too.
Gradually, the discourse around my friend's Facebook posting started to shift to the more positive, and everyone agreed that sources for news, and the rest of a story, were key to understanding. Especially when it came down to issues involving the places we live, the ways we live, and the choices we make about how we live.
Then I stopped myself. How was any of this different from the cries about "false news" hitting our entire news media and world of journalism this year? What's the difference between not naming a journal or town and using unnamed sources?
First point: you go with the institution and who it's reaching. The New York Times and Washington Post, whether you like what they say or not, are the top of their field. They have access, and are relentless in their pursuit of a fully vetted story. And they sit on what they print to make sure it's right before they go to press... because their entire business is based on it.
Second, they run stories that truly affect the ways our lives get run. They're reporting on important matters... and they balance their "down" side with pieces on ways in which we as individuals and communities can meet our challenges and better our situations.
That all said, though, social media remains dangerous. Ever noticed how much time it can suck up? Or how it pushes certain stories forward while burying others, based not so much on any preferred personal choices but algorithms designed to, well, sell us other stuff.
Ah, what a complex world...
I'm going to make sure I'm more careful with what I say in the future, for good and bad. And yes, I'm also going to continue to pay attention to jinxings and voodoo. Especially when they have possible legal repercussions.