Much has been made about the emergence of fake news in 2016 and its effect on the election. There’s also been much tsk-tsking of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for not doing an adequate job of alerting readers to what is real and what is fake. But the discussion seems to be missing the point, which is that the problem with Facebook goes much deeper than what gets shared on it.
*(I’m using Facebook as a shorthand for modern internet consumption, including social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as shallow searches via Google to discover everything, while always staying plugged in via our phone and other devices. The aim is not to be all encompassing – I don’t know how this applies to Instagram or Snapchat, for example, though I expect it remains valid. And ‘we’ is primarily about the U.S. and the West more broadly, as witnessed in my 8 years living in Europe and Israel as well as still being in the American internet milieu.)
**I read this article this week and thought its theme echoed this point.
***Again, using Facebook as a shorthand for social media as a whole – I’m pretty sure Twitter could stop working tomorrow and society would be better off.
- Limit our time on social media – use it for specific reasons, not to kill time or when we’re stuck in other places. Use social media purposefully, not mindlessly, and stay focused on that purpose.
- Do not let social media crowd out other informational or social activities – reading, connecting with people one on one online, calling people, or getting out and seeing people, and really seeing them, not talking with them with one eye on the phone. Social media can shorten distance and speed up interaction and serve as a forum for reaching more people at once; it cannot substitute for thoughtful, personal activities. Don’t let it do so.
- Do not confuse expressing opinions with acting on one’s beliefs – sharing an article is not getting involved. I honestly don’t know what is getting involved – I live abroad, so I’m not super well plugged in here or in the states. But volunteering, meeting people, sharing ideas, learning how one another thinks – all this has to happen, and it can’t happen on social media.