Who is my neighbor on social media?

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:18
Too easy to share, and so bland!

The COVID-19 posturing, protests and constant craziness on social media is grinding away at plenty of nerves. Reason’s recent article about leaving people alone summarizes the current grandstanding, on all sides, in its last paragraph:

These with-us-or-against-us performances are a symptom of a larger climate in which every element of our lives has become an opportunity for tribal signaling and cultural warfare, and in which our ruling political tribes are growing increasingly illiberal in their approaches to free speech, free trade, free thought, private property, and so much more.

Reason

Right now, most people are caught in the 24 hour news cycle, which rewards getting angry over something every day. But what happens when people get fed up and start quitting? As far back as 2017 people began noting that Millenials weren’t sharing nearly as much original content on social media. As social media becomes increasingly hostile to contradictory views, its far easier to share bland, feel good articles or memes. Many people get no joy or energy from arguing with people online. People that do love the sport of online argument are likely to find an increasingly smaller number of engagement opportunities. In Top Gun terms, it won’t be so “target rich” anymore.

As people pull back, you’ll see much more use of social media to connect directly with people, but a lot less sharing of opinions. This makes tracking social media sharing as a flawed data set for gauging popular opinion. For any future election, how Twitter, Facebook and other things trend isn’t going to be a reliable indicator for polling, yet people are going to swear by it. This very different sharing is also making the social media advertising model more difficult to execute.

People will always self-select friends. We are called to love our neighbors, and if social media makes that hard, people will naturally pull back. Social media put us in a weird place of often knowing many people online, but not knowing our next door neighbor. Ironically, it might now turn us to cut out the online “friends” in order to talk more with our neighbor.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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