I joined social media for the first time when I made a Facebook profile just before my high school graduation. A year later, I was on Twitter. I never had MySpace or AIM, so I was pretty unaware how social media, let alone these two entities, worked. Fortunately, both were still largely lawless, still amply malleable to use as the user wished. I knew pretty much the day I started my Twitter account I liked it more. It had even fewer rules than Facebook, there were plenty of celebrities on it foolish enough to interact with a young douchebag such as myself. It was like Reddit, just without all the jargon and required internet knowledge, and, best of all, for some reason there seemed no way in hell my relatives would ever find it. I dove right in and immediately started oversharing, mentioning every celebrity I could think of like some sort of weird Twitter Stan come to life, and pretty much letting the worst parts of my personality manifest themselves and run amok all over the site.
That was 9 years ago. Now, Twitter, and especially Facebook, suck. They’ve gone from forums of expression and interaction to heavily regulated for profit addictions, mainly for those that were originally not the targeted audience (I’m looking at you Boomers). We can’t scroll more than three seconds without seeing something that upsets us, whether it’s an opinion, an incredibly overshared pic (usually someone’s ass-naked child), or a pyramid scheme disguised as the latest fountain of youth. Misery abounds, but rather than liberate ourselves of it we involuntarily log back on again and again, hating our experience yet refusing to leave for every reason from FOMO to the belief one simply can’t exist in the First World, in the 21st century, without social media.
That doesn’t have to be the case. The best thing we can all do is eviscerate our social profiles immediately and make a blood oath to never return. But, if you’re like me, and you really do need this monstrosity to peddle your shit literature, instructional videos, music, crafts, influence (bleh), whatever it is you’re peddling, there’s another route.
The mute button
Maybe you’re all already well-versed in its function. I’ve purposely refused to use it all these years. I’d like to say it was out of an effort to keep my experience on social media as organic as possible, to maintain a broad interaction with everyone on it, but truthfully it was because for way too long my jackass self enjoyed fighting with people. I couldn’t mute topics, I might miss a chance to call a stranger a fucking lunatic or accuse them of threatening me and the sovereignty of our country with their opinion that’s different than mine.
No more. I’m done prowling social media every time a controversial topic pops off. I’m not going to keep logging on in the hopes I get whipped into enough of a fervor to make me lash out at a stranger or, worse, someone I’ve followed for years who I only know as “that account I follow for golf jokes”. I won’t lie. It hasn’t been easy. Like a boxer misses the ring, like a warrior misses the fight, I miss the troll. But if animals can be trained to avoid things that cause them pain and displeasure, so can I dammit.
Besides, I’m done coming across situations where I might potentially burn a bridge with someone whom I otherwise enjoy a perfectly agreeable online relationship. There’s no reason for me to throw away years of laughing, liking, and RTing just because we don’t feel the same way about ____. We’ve all, let me repeat that, we have all: hang on, I’m going to say it one more time, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE OF US. has at least once gone off the rails and ranted about a topic with more vitriol and less facts than a 19th century Calvinist preacher. I’m not going to ruin an Internet friendship just because you wanted to wild out about something. That’s petty.
Instead, I’ll just ignore it. This way, I’m not tempted to engage in useless bickering that’ll end with baseless generalizations being hurled at one another by two people who’ve convinced themselves they’ve demoralized the other. This way, everyone stays internet buddies and no one winds up pissed. With the mute button I only get what I came for. If I followed you because I like your relationship humor, that’s what I’ll see. Not whether or not you think Bill Nye should be appointed chairman of an international council on environmental reconciliation. If you’re my TV and butt jokes guy, you’ll never be my gun rights guy.
Now I know some of you are reading this and gearing up an argument about privilege and it’s all well and good for me to just mute a topic I don’t want to talk about or that doesn’t apply to me and that it must be nice to have life so good I can just ignore the world burning around me and blah blah blah. Lemme just stop you right there. I’m not ignoring shit. I’m just refusing to continue deluding myself that any effort online translates into effect in the real world. I recognize that tweeting lunacy about something to every stranger with a profile until I’m so sore I have to wear a carpel tunnel brace will produce the same results as if I sat on my thumbs until they lost feeling. What I recognize is my life has improved so much since I discovered the mute button, maybe give it a swing?