Opinion: Facebook frustration

By Jenn Watt

Published March 12 2019

I’ve become increasingly hesitant to post to Facebook as the level of vitriol on the social media platform seems if not to be ramping up to be continuing along unabated.

An online place that at one time was mostly populated by cute baby photos and clever status updates now appears to be just as much about the best way to publicly skewer another person with little thought to the long-term consequences of those comments.

Many years ago our newspaper’s website included a comments function. When a controversial story was posted staff would need to monitor the space regularly keeping an eye out for “trolls” who would come along and post hurtful if not libelous comments.

It became a soul-sucking part of the job. We no longer have comments on our site to my great delight. However in the meantime Facebook has taken up that space.

I can seldom predict what story is going to garner inappropriate posts. And by inappropriate I don’t mean someone with a strongly worded critique of the story or content. I mean comments that target individuals crafted in an intimidating tone.

Often when I read the comments on Facebook and to a lesser extent other social media platforms I recognize them as conversations  I would have heard 10 years ago around a table at the doughnut shop. Still hurtful still inaccurate but ultimately affecting very few.

Today Facebook is playing that role far too often. We post our first impressions our angry rants without enough regard to those on the receiving end. And those on the “receiving end” aren’t just the targets of our frustration. When the comment string gets nasty it can create a cloud of negativity which at times is downright frightening to read.

Unfortunately Facebook has become a key method of news delivery. We go there to find out about an accident we saw on the way home or to help find a missing dog. News outlets post important stories and community organizations advertise their upcoming events.

And there are still lots of baby photos and vacation updates to keep us smiling.

In fact there’s plenty of lovely stuff happening on Facebook. The Echo has written many times about how the community has used the platform to rally around those who need help.

I’ve personally benefited from kind words sent my way on personal posts or when bad things have happened in my life.

That said we all need to be more conscientious about what we post and maybe slower in our responses.

The internet is geared to speed. Posts come and go from your news feed making it seem like the time is now to give your opinion or hit the angry reaction face to something you disagree with.

But we all need to take a step back and think about the person on the other side of the computer screen. Are our comments helpful and constructive or are we instead wounding them for something that is not as serious as we’re making it? Are our comments showing open critical thought or are we making a space dangerous and prone to harassment?

We all need to do more to make our online spaces as safe as possible. Every comment matters.