Navigating the Labyrinth of Social Media.

One of the greatest things I love about living in Utah are the slot canyons, the narrows, or whatever you want to call them. I just love the humility I feel while being sandwiched between two cliff faces that tower above my head that lead down vast corridors into unknown spaces and a series of mazes. Essentially when you venture off into a slot canyon you are slipping through a series of cracks where sometimes you have to even shimmy your way up and over some gnarly spots within the canyon walls. Sometimes you have to even wonder, “what kind of creatures are lurking in these multiple crevices?”

Slot canyons are not without their dangers. Take for the example, the young man who got his arm caught under a boulder that fell between two crevices whose only solution was to cut his arm off. There are even stories of those who have been swept away by flash floods when the rains came from miles away, and yet, that’s the risk you take when hiking through nature’s drainage system.

I really, really, love slot canyons so I almost cringe at the thought of using them as an analogy for the current climate we are in. Like, I don’t want to do that to one of nature’s spectacles. Yet, they seem to provide the best analogy for the precipice that I am currently in now. The walls are closing in. Like legit, are we all ready for the season finale of 2020? What lies ahead? What obstacles are in the way? What parts am I going to have to hunker down and crawl on my hands and knees for? Are the flood gates going to open? Where are the dead ends? Am I going to get stuck between a rock and a hard place?

The crazy part is that we are all in this. I don’t know what’s happening in everyone’s labyrinth right now. At the moment, we are all trying to get through our own abyss and so in a sense, it’s creating tunnel vision. I just want to give a holler. If any of you want to drop in a comment how things are going for you I am interested.

Like, I have no idea anymore whose isolating, whose not isolating, whose on lockdown, who is experiencing a little more respite and freedom, or what your schools are doing; Not to mention, how things are going in your neck of the woods, but most importantly of all, how are you doing? Like, legit, I sincerely want to know. I want to know more than the headline version.

One of the things I hate about blog posts the most, is that for the most part, everything I type is one sided. This isn’t a true conversation. Yet, when I see platforms that have comment threads, I wonder if that is a true conversation either. I’ve been really pondering comment threads on media platforms lately.

Two things that I find disheartening about comment threads is that they open the door for concentrated antagonistic efforts. Like legit, there are people actually getting paid to comment on threads right now for various agendas, and of course there are people who are doing it for free. Also, comment threads are also algorithm makers and I really hate that aspect too. It’s like our whole level of communicating as we knew it, or as it should be has been hijacked. It all just feels so unnatural, forced, contrived. It has turned people into beggars and panderers when we are not, and I am adamantly opposed to what this is doing to people and society in general.

Somebody mentioned that these social media platforms have become like black and red ants that have been put into a mason jar and shook up. After the lid is opened, we are so discombobulated we don’t know what is up or down, who we are, and who is enemy or our friend. Are we all really like this or is it the mechanism that shook us all up in the first place that is to blame?

Something interesting that I have noticed, is that I have been speaking my truth lately, and I’ve lost a few followers, but as I am losing, I am gaining and these people appear to be more and more like my people, “my tribe,” or whatever you want to call it. It is not necessary a bad thing. Yet, I’ve been also rethinking cancel culture and boundaries. Legit, I cancelled my own mother.

I also want to throw in a thought here: “The constant struggle between I should be more informed about current events and I would like to be a functional human being with at least a vague will to live” is real. Now, let me go back to cancelling my mother. I cancelled my mother because I saw her falling into misinformation traps and falling privy to some of her racist, wacky-do, Qanon, vigilant, militia-loving relatives. My mother thinks that the Corona Virus is a government hoax, has resisted mask wearing, thinks Bill Gates is trying to put an implant in us, and believes that her religious liberties are being infringed upon.

I did not disown my mother, but I quit following her on social media, as well as my brother, some of his family, a few aunts and uncles, and some cousins. Basically I “unfriended” these people but in real life we could probably meet up and converse just fine as long as we avoided certain topics. I could probably find some thread of connection to them outside of the political sphere. It’s an odd situation to be Frenemies” with half of your family, “Frenemies” with most of your neighbors. This seems to be a common occurrence now. My situation is not unique.

My thinking was, “these people have platforms in a sense, every single one of them, and I’m not going to stand by and watch. I should not have to see these things on my space. If these things are triggering for me, I should cleanse my space. ” First of all, let’s get real! Social media is NOT anybody’s personal space. It’s like a public market where everyone has a booth where most people can browse and shop. I needed to stop looking at these media sights like they were my home where I could keep house and decide who comes into it and set all the appropriate boundaries.

Social media sites do have over lords and they determine a-lot. They set the rules even without our conscious awareness, and in many ways our own psychology is being used against us. I highly recommend to anyone that they watch the documentary The Social Dilemma, it will blow your mind. It will make you moderately sick to your stomach, it will make your rethink everything you have disclosed about yourself, and all the things you wish you could take back. It made me want to revamp my identity to take my life back from those who thought they had me pegged so that I could have the upper hand and hoodwink the mega minds, the machinations, the algorithms, or whatever. It gave me the sensation of wanting to go into hiding completely off the grid.

Most of all, it made me think about how my relationships had been effected, all the things I had been “robbed” of. Like legit, nobody is going to spend their last days on their deathbed saying, “I wish I had spent more time on social media. ” If I got a scary prognosis tomorrow, I certainly would not want to spend my final days on earth on social media. I find the idea that people even have the option to have their accounts rolled over into “legacy accounts” after they die to be absolutely ludicrous when I really think about it. Is my mark on the social web and what info has been obtained by it to make me more of a consumer really my legacy?

One of the starkest thoughts for me ever, is when I had a family member commit suicide, and I looked for a sign on their social media account to see what their final thoughts were. Literally, just hours before they died, they had posted something about giving away all their virtual poker chips. What. The. Hell? They should have been reaching out to someone. There should have been real human connection, but instead, there was only tinkering around with virtual poker chips. Probably one of my most sobering thoughts about social media ever.

Here’s the thing about cancel culture too. If you cancel out all the people you don’t agree with, and they cancel out you, where is the nuance? I read a quote recently by Charity Croff that said, “Progress is not usually binary, Revolution requires nuance.” Sometimes I’ve been incredibly disheartened by the well thought-out and cited sources I would use to convince others to embrace my point of view and…crickets. Radio silence. I would think to myself, “What is wrong with these people?”

Watching the Social Dilemma gave me some hope that people are not that far gone. They may not be seeing it, because the algorithms don’t favor boring old cited factual peer reviewed articles over memes. Controversy spreads, gossip spreads, shocking bits of misinformation spread. Also, algorithms and settings have split people into camps so they don’t have to hear an opposing point of view that may challenge their own. This has been bad for everyone in both camps.

“Both camps” and “two sides” actually became more polarized when social media became more and more of a thing. There’s black and white now, and very little gray. Radicalization has been pushed by eliminating this gray. In general, Social media is not a true representation of reality, nor should it be perceived as such. In recent weeks I’ve even noticed that there are even concentrated efforts being made to divide the divide.

Legit, there’s a new brand of Troll out there I have not seen before. They portray themselves as being on my side and then they stir up the pot. I’m left asking myself, “What the hell is your problem and I thought we were on the same side?”

I decided to do a little detective work and I creeped on their page. Their page stated they had been on since 2012. They had six anti-Trump posts, rather generic, and twelve friends total. Like that wasn’t suspicious. That got me thinking, “The Kremlin?” Don’t even get me started down that path. Yes, currently governments can be taken down with misinformation campaigns and nobody has to even fire a shot, or leave their own borders. This is all covered in The Social Dilemma.

Overall, social media is a tool and even those who created it had no idea how far it would go. A great deal of this aftermath was not even created on purpose and what we are witnessing now to a large degree, are the unintended consequences. That is another stark reality check for these platforms. Their very creators are now sounding the alarms on them.

There are a few things that have been bothering me lately from my perspective. A recent story I watched on CNN Business titled, “We asked Trump supporters to Show us their Facebook feeds” and yes I pondered how that would go if the opposite end of the spectrum were given the same question.

This also made me wonder what my mother’s facebook feed looked like. Was I really making the right choice by removing what little conflicting viewpoints that I may have had that could possibly be filtered on to her feed by cancelling her? Surprisingly enough, when we became “friends” again, I noticed that my mother had responded to a few things I had said in positive ways that I did not expect. She was listening, and was I doing her any favors by eliminating myself as an alternative voice to her entire feed’s narrative? Am I doing myself any favors by eliminating all alternating viewpoints from my page’s narrative?

Another thing I must discuss is respect. I do not have to accept all opposing viewpoints to “keep my mind open” if this is not done respectfully. Believe it or not, I still have friends who are republican and I’ve analyzed these relationships. For example I have one friend, and she is absolutely a right wing conservative. Yet, she has a special needs child, as do I, and this is a bond that we share because in that regard we “get” each other. We have a healthy reciprocating relationship when it comes to the trials of raising sons with special needs. That bond is stronger than our politics.

This has made me highly consider the approach that I must use when forging understanding. What if I first genuinely went to the realm of what connected us over what disconnected us? These are the real lifelines for forging change. Can genuine connections really be made over a media facade? In all honesty, the friends I have hung onto that have opposing viewpoints on social media are also the friends that I have other genuine connections with in real life.

Finally, I want to address one more thing that has had me really fired up over social media platforms lately. I’ll post the title of both articles referencing this by both Fox News and CNN. Fox News reporting: “Dem ‘Squad’ accuses Twitter of shielding Trump from hate-tweets after dismissing attacks on them.” CNN reporting “Twitter bans posts wishing for Trump death. The Squad wonders there that policy was for them.” Okay, so can we just contemplate where to draw the line with hate speech and death threats, and what is bad for the goose is also bad for the gander? The hypocrisy on this is astounding.

The bottom line is that many of us, myself included, have unhealthy relationships with social media. Social media has become like that drunk person who shows up to a party that can’t control their alcohol, creates a disturbance, and legit has no appropriate boundaries. We all know that someone who does not have appropriate boundaries so we have to set them up for ourselves to keep ourselves out of harm’s way.

The more I think about social media the more I feel that it is an absolute boundary issue. I’m so over it that I’m going to drop the F bomb. It is a free for all F_ck fest! We are all F’d. The most sobering line that came out of watching The Social Dilemma came when someone was asked how we are going to fix this? The answer was, “I don’t know, but we have to, we just have to.”

So yes, the walls are caving in over here. Corona is circling the wagons now and reeking havoc on our communities. It’s been getting so close to me now that it’s getting personal, and now it’s made it’s way into the Whitehouse. We’ve got this election, and those god awful debates, and we’re more divided than ever and we’re just arriving at the question, “What about this mechanism that is dividing us?”

I don’t have the answers people. I only know that they can’t be solved in weeks, and I only hope that by the next election cycle (god-willing that we have one) that we have come to a much healthier understanding with social media. I don’t even like thinking in terms of election cycles. I just want to get back to the basics. Changing seasons, moon cycles, tides, whatever. All the things that algorithms can not process. REAL LIFE, LIVING, genuine connection, real emotions that these programs just can not fathom. An emoji just is not it.

I think in terms of the social media my older girls grew up with versus my younger children. My older children grew up without TV, we watched many episodes of Anne of Green Gables we picked up on tape at the library. I saw this transition from when media took over and the difference it has made in the childhoods of my younger children. In the back of my mind I thought how one day we would view social media like smoking. Everyone was doing it, but we did not know the repercussions until much later, and now we know.

I don’t want to leave this blog post in a state of hopelessness and despair. This pandemic has forced me into meditation. It is my coping mechanism. Writing is another coping mechanism and blog and media posts are the mean. Print isn’t exactly dead. People are still writing and reading, they are just doing it differently. Yet, here I am, dissing on something that is essential to what I do which leads me to my final conclusion. SOCIAL MEDIA is a tool that must be harnessed. It is like having access to a super power that one must control. It can not control you.

In writing and social media they tell you to find your niche, find your genre, whatever. There are A-LOT of wellness accounts out there. I am re-evaluating a lot of them. First of all, I am seeing a lot of big time mega influencers who could utilize their voice and don’t, and I’m seeing a lot of influencers who are doing what I perceive to be a lot of harm and sadly a lot of this is falling under the umbrella of “wholistic healing.” There are a lot of Qanon Q-cumbers out there who are into herbals, eco-conscious living and sell essential oils I’m just saying.

What I am not seeing with some of these wellness accounts, is “hey, why don’t we wear a mask to protect others,” science is valid, or let’s get down to the nitty gritty with mental health, substance abuse, or addiction? Clearly it does not jive well with certain aesthetics. I am seeing a HUGE need for wellness accounts that can also address social media addiction, social media cleansing, and how to set appropriate boundaries with social media. It IS a problem and we do need some of those recovering social media addicts to help push others through. They exist.

That is my final word of hope for this blog post. This thing is clearly just taking off, and the consensus is HOUSTON we do have a problem, and I am seeing little seedlings of those who are propagating this.

On my meditation journey, I have found meditations for combatting social media addiction, cleansing your social media, setting the appropriate boundaries, harnessing it as a tool for good and not for detriment, not living for the dopamine fix of approval, attention, passing time, or escapism that these platforms provide. I am just forging my way through this myself and I hope to blog more about this in the future as a seeker of answers.

Anyway, I want to leave you with this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai8nm5rTiic to a social media cleanse to show that they exist, and for anyone interested, I hope this leads you down the rabbit hole to reevaluate whatever relationship you or others you know have with this platform. I have also left a link to the trailer for The Social Dilemma, currently showing on Netflix and Ted Talks are also an excellent place to start. My deepest hope is that society can achieve that sweet spot with these social networks because we have to, we just have to.

Until Next Post

Rachelle Whiting

CNN. “We Asked Trump Supporters to Show Us Their Facebook Feeds.” CNN Business Insider. https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/09/24/facebook-trump-supporters-fact-check-misinformation-orig-me.cnn. 2020.

Mindful Waves Studio. “Guided Meditation for Addiction, Empowering Social Media and Smartphone habits. ” YouTube. 11, January 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai8nm5rTiic.

Netflix. “The Social Dilemma. Official Trailer.” Netflix. 27, August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaaC57tcci0.

O’Sullivan, Donie. “Twitter bans Posts Wishing for Trump Death. The Squad wonders where that Policy was for them. ” CNN Politics. 3, October 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/03/politics/twitter-trump-policy-ban-the-squad-politics-trnd/index.html

Rambaran, Vandana. “Dem ‘Squad’ accuses Twitter of shielding Trump from hate-tweets after dismissing attacks on them.” Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/squad-members-rip-twitter-for-banning-death-threats-against-trump-after-ignoring-threats-against-them

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