Facebook. One word, millions of triggers. A world of random and manipulated information. A single website that started as a benign university communication platform has grown into a heinous monster that takes no captives. Anyone, literally anyone, who has an opinion and wishes to display it for the whole world to see can do so via a Facebook post, live video, or comment. Think about that for a moment. While this is a social phenomenon so trivial to you and me, one that we so often take for granted, we often forget that this social communication infrastructure gives us the power no human has ever possessed before: the ability to speak to the whole world at once. What are we using this tremendous power for today?
Facebook feuds. A pastime for some, a religion for others. The art of wittily taking down your opponents in the “comment” section and finding allies to defend your precious opinion is a skill not everyone to destined to master, and those who fail suffer the social death of humiliation. It doesn’t matter a whole lot what side you take in a comment discussion: you will, inevitably, be met with the harsh and unforgiving criticism from your antagonist.
One of the most discussed and, ironically, most dangerous topics on Facebook is politics. I grew up in Russia, a country where the democracy is superficial, and hides in its depths a slithering tyranny that leaves millions to suffer from corruption, inadequate wages, and borderline slum living conditions, to name a few. Because of this, I used to be, and still am, prone to starting endless political debates, and I used to take pride in bringing my opponent to a pathetic downfall. I definitely have a few things to say and disagree with regarding domestic and international politics. However, I have meticulously avoided engaging in political discussion on Facebook as long as I have had my account. How do I do it, you ask?
I know nothing. I stay out of the loop of politics-related information, be it on my Facebook feed, on CNN, or in the paper promptly delivered every morning to the Wendy’s on 64th. When someone asks me “So do you support Trump? He likes Russians,” or “what do you think of that Nazi?”, I can honestly say I have no idea what they are talking about, and avoid getting into meaningless discussion that will most likely lead the participants to nothing more than a larger gap between the two opinions. The same applies for any Facebook post I see that has to do with politics, human rights, or other forms of activism–my opinion will not contribute to the cause, it will only serve as a catalyst for more strife.
So I stay out of it. I scroll past every triggering post, sometimes wondering what I could say to tear the author’s argument to shreds, but catching myself every time, realizing that my meager contribution will do more harm than good. I can truthfully say that this way of living my virtual life has left me feeling nothing but contentment. Of course, by turning a blind eye to social media rants, I by no means intend to say that I don’t care about the issues we face as a community, as a society, or a planet we proudly call Earth. But it simply breaks my heart to see so many amazing and worthwhile causes being lost to social media and destroyed by angry conflict-seekers who throw their superficial knowledge around with no real desire to contribute to change. Violence against minorities, for instance, is being fought against with more cyberviolence. I believe we have enough historical examples to show us that aggression and violence will never end in peace, only meaningless bloodshed. Moreover, the growing subculture of leaving your opinion to hide in the comment section of controversial posts is giving passive-aggressive people control over what other people think and see. It’s a culture built on resentment, and the only way I found for myself to stay out of it is to remain ignorant of the problems of the world that I have little power to resolve.
Instead, I choose to change what I can about this world, in a slightly more peaceful way and on a slightly smaller scale. The Beatles said it right: “All you need is love.” As much as we try to find another answer to society’s unending problems, love is the only path to any genuine conflict resolution. I go about my day showing my genuine love to those I care for, and those that I need more time to get to know–not through social media, but face to face. Conflicts are inevitable, even in the real world, and that is where I choose to resolve them. So far, not a single massive conflict has struck my path, so I must be doing something right.