SOCIAL MEDIA SILENCE
Yesterday, I returned from a wonderful mini break in my favourite city, Brighton. Usually, I wouldn’t be caught dead without my camera around my neck or my phone in hand, ready to capture every moment and share it online. However, this time, I didn’t even take my camera out of the hotel with me. Before yesterday, I hadn’t tweeted anything substantial or shared an image on Instagram in about a week. It was what some might call a social media detox, and although it was unintentional, it’s something that I learnt a great deal from. Namely, I’m falling out of love with social media, especially Twitter. Grab a cup of tea, and let’s talk about it.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In the last few years, blogging and YouTube have become synonymous with social media as they’ve expanded into influential industries in their own rights. Without using social media to promote your new posts and videos, your content is destined to get lost in the masses, making platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook essential tools for anybody sharing anything online. This includes brands, businesses and news outlets, but also, politicians, journalists and celebrity personalities of all kinds. We only need to look at the ongoing Twitter feuds between Piers Morgan and J.K. Rowling, or Donald Trump and pretty much everybody else to see what I mean.
In 2017, everybody can have their say, and in many ways, this is an extremely positive thing. However, everybody means everybody, including those from the emerging alt-right movement and other unsavoury groups. Now, this isn’t a post about the politics of free speech, so I won’t comment on whether or not this should be acceptable. Instead, I want to talk about why people on both sides of the political spectrum are making me feel increasingly isolated, overwhelmed, and quite frankly, depressed on Twitter.
ACTIONS OVER WORDS
Last year, I wrote a post musing on whether we have a responsibility to use our social media platforms for social good, and the sentiment of that post became more relevant than ever following the recent election of Donald Trump. To recap, in that post I talked about how I’d seen people criticising those who used their platforms to discuss ‘frivolous’ issues over political ones. I explained why I don’t feel comfortable sharing my political views on Twitter, preferring to use it for the promotion of my music and writing, and how that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the state of the world outside of my social media bubble. I’ll reiterate my final point from that post: ‘People can use social media however they like, as long as they are being decent, good people. I don’t care whether they’re interested in political commentary, League of Legends streaming or One Direction, as long as they go out into the world and make a difference when it counts.’
For me, actions are far more important than words, especially pixelated ones on the Internet. A number of my friends recently took part in the London Women’s March. I personally didn’t attend due to anxiety issues surrounding large crowds, but you can be sure that I’m incredibly proud of every single one of them. Many of them rarely post on social media, and I’m sure that’s the case for thousands of other people who took part in the marches all over the world. For that reason, I felt angered to see people rebuking and shaming others, especially those with large amounts of followers (and therefore, influence) for neglecting to use their platforms in support of the movement against Trump. Though I believe it comes from a good place, I take a number of issues with this sentiment.
Firstly, and I think I’ve made this pretty clear already, I don’t think anybody has a responsibility to use their platforms for political influence. Most of the tweets I saw were indirectly targeted at people like Zoella, a woman with a following of nearly 8 million people on Twitter. She remained quiet on politics, but continued to promote her new videos and product line. Do I begrudge her for this? Absolutely not. Considering the age range of the majority of her followers, I think sharing her political views with her impressionable young fans would be irresponsible, rather than responsible. Last year, I saw somebody tweet: ‘I’m going to vote *insert political party*, because I haven’t got any idea about politics, but my family have always voted *insert political party*.’ Zoella sharing her political standpoint with her fans would encourage the same lack of autonomy demonstrated by this tweet. Politics is, and should be, a highly personal thing in my humble opinion. Nobody has the right to tell anybody else how to vote or what to denounce.
Secondly, I don’t think anybody should be demonised for choosing to focus on the things that make them happy. A couple of years ago, I spent two or three hours everyday scrolling through the news, focussing especially on the injustices taking place in the world. I was more informed than most people at that time, but was I any happier for it? Quite the opposite. In fact, it coincided with the start of my spiral into depression. I’ve since learnt that surrounding myself with negativity online is one of the worst things for my mental health, and so, I choose not to. It’s a choice I make for my own health, and I won’t be shamed for doing so. People choose to avoid politics online for a number of reasons and it’s wrong to assume that those who do so are ignorant about what’s going on in the world outside of social media. Sadly, it’s an idea that persists.
Thirdly, Twitter encourages the circulation of fake news. It’s a buzzword that’s making the rounds at the moment, and for good reason. People latch onto headlines and images and retweet them without bothering to look into the context, and this really grinds my gears. I’ll share one small example with you. Recently, an image of Theresa May and Donald Trump holding hands exploded on Twitter. Obviously, our Prime Minister pledged her undying allegiance to the new POTUS and their holding hands was confirmation of this – or so Twitter would have you think. It turned out to be a screengrab of Trump assisting May (or May assisting Trump, it’s not really clear) for less than five seconds as they walked down a slope. Regardless of your views on Theresa May or Donald Trump, I think it’s ridiculous to contort a moment like this into something it’s not. It’s something the Daily Mail (a publication most Twitter users I’m talking about seem to despise!) would do. This is just one example, but it happens every single day. I rarely retweet images or headlines, and if I do, you can be sure I’ve looked into the context surrounding them to ensure that it’s accurate. If you hate fake news, you should do the same.
Virtue signalling (in this case, posting activist imagery or words on social media for the sake of admiration or ‘likes’ over doing something in real life to make a difference) is a whole other issue, but Vogue wrote an interesting thought piece which is particularly relevant to those of us who also post images of our outfits or makeup online. Ironically enough, I also saw people criticising the headline they chose to promote the article without actually reading it. Fake news, people!
YOU DO YOU AND I’LL DO ME
All of this reached a head a fortnight ago. I felt absolutely miserable every time I opened Twitter, and I’d had enough. Unfollowing is a contentious topic, but I decided that the unlikely event of offending somebody wasn’t worth the unhappiness I was experiencing. I unfollowed all of the people whose tweets were making me feel guilty, angry, exasperated or doubtful, and I feel much better for it. From this point onwards, I’ll use Twitter how I please, and I’ll be paying little heed to the opinions of others. However, outside of social media, I’ll continue to stay informed, vote and talk, because ultimately, they’re the actions that make a difference.
Finally, a friendly reminder that you can absolutely be interested in clothes and makeup AND world issues. If you want to post about both, that is completely up to you, and good on you for doing so. I won’t be posting about both, but I’m happy to send anybody who assumes I’m not interested a copy of my essays on hegemony or intersectional feminism. Thank you, and goodnight!
SHOP THE POST
Just playing (but not really). As I’m sure you can see, this is something that’s really bothered me recently, but as always, I’m open to discussion. You always leave such insightful comments, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you disagree with me. Don’t be shy – go ahead!