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Thanks a Bunch, Zuckerberg: Facebook was originally developed to keep people connected – however, according to some Bend locals, the social media platform is better at driving people apart
By Cayla Clark
- What started as another way for humans to communicate has shifted toward becoming a platform for hate and toxicity.
Personally, I had to take an extended break from social media shortly after the coronavirus pandemic turned political. The blatant divide between "maskers" and "anti-maskers," "Trumpers" and "libtards" and "sheep" and "herders" (herd immunity activists, to be more specific) was enough to drive a quarantined person to drink (excessively). It was difficult to stay unengaged unless the apps were uninstalled entirely. Social media had become so ugly and hateful that it was starting to take an emotional and mental toll.
For some, like Bend local Sandy Klein, social media took an even more menacing turn in recent times. After undergoing a significant interpersonal trauma involving her husband, she began receiving extensive backlash from some local people. Even before that, she decided to get rid of one of her two Facebook pages to avoid the constant conflict.
"The political climate is the worst right now, and it's really bringing out the worst in people in my opinion," said Klein. "It goes way beyond just having an opinion or sharing news. So many times, when a news article is shared by someone, left or right, it quickly turns toxic. There was one instance I can remember; someone asked a genuine question and was looking for a genuine answer, and I responded. But as soon as I answered I was viciously attacked and called a racist. That part drives me crazy, that a person can express themselves without being attacked like that. With everything that I've been going through, you know, that makes me feel like I have to keep it all to myself."
Bend local Griffin Michael added that discussing politics on Facebook was driving a clear wedge between people. "I had a man threaten to give my business bad reviews on Google in order to ruin my business because we had differing opinions on politics. He looked at my Facebook page and said, 'I see you're divorced... your wife couldn't even stand your pathetic ass,' and even went on to say that he hopes my kids die from COVID. I was like, 'Whoa! I've never met you in my life. You say these things based on what?' It made me sad; not just because of what he said about me, but just about how vitriolic and vile he became. There are people out there wishing harm to others based on a disagreement. I don't think that happens so easily in real life. Or maybe these days it does? I don't know."
- "Unfriending" people on Facebook seems simple enough, but some prefer calling names and making threats.
Klein agreed that there was a disconnect between online interactions and in-person interactions. "It's far easier to be hurtful to someone on social media, whether you know them or not. It's more difficult to have conversations face-to-face."
To the same point, Michael continued, "I think through algorithms and echo chambers we are losing touch with our humanity. There just seems to be less room for nuance when everything is a meme or a jab. Someone told me one time that they thought I was a great dad based on my Facebook page. I replied, 'Well, yeah, I don't post pictures or videos of me being an asshole.'"
"Cancel culture" has become another prevalent social media-based trend. The phrase refers to the practice of withdrawing support from a person or organization after some allegedly offensive or objectionable behavior comes to the surface. Klein noted that she had experienced "cancel culture" firsthand after undergoing her familial issue. "People were so quick to pass judgement or call me names," she said. "Everyone started canceling me. I wanted to fight back sometimes, but I know doing so would only make things worse, so I stick to posting puppies and kittens. I also experienced the "lynch mob mentality" firsthand. I was surprised by how unsafe I felt at one point and how quickly things on Facebook escalated. People were making threats, wishing awful things on me and making up stories just to drive the point home. I really felt unsafe there for a little bit."