It's been around six months already that Twitter has become my main social network website. Of course, it should be easy for anyone inserted into the Internet in the last 10 years to realize why: tweets are mostly short, straight to the point, and pack a high signal-to-noise ratio. Tweets are cheap to the reader: a futile tweet will waste me less than a minute.
This change has been happening at the expense of the time I used to spend at Facebook, a social networking website that has been progressively becoming an obnoxious advertising company. Not that Twitter is much different, but, on Facebook, distinguishing between ads and content is, now, nearly impossible.
The problem itself begins with the very own definition of advertising. You might have never tried to sell a product or a service and, still, have become an online outdoor. In fact, most Facebook users are talking ad platforms themselves, without ever profiting off of it. Many might be actually paying to be an ad!
In the urge to build a popular online persona, with many friends and followers, people I know in person have succumbed their personalities to the attention-whoreism, by either preventing themselves to express their actual thoughts or feelings, or by provocatively assuming polemical stances to grab attention by the means of scandal. When confronted about them in person, they'd often back out or even fully deny everything they had stated. Some of them were honest, though, and admitted doing it only for the shock value. I admire those for the sincerity.
I refuse to become part of this circus, though. I can't ask anyone I know and/or love to stop posting walls of text about their political stances, but I can opt out of it. I won't read them, I won't share them, I won't comment on them. If you want to make an impact on the world, start by getting your butt off your chair and interacting with the real world, where real people live, work and talk. Otherwise, I just wish you remain as irrelevant as your currently are.
I'll end this post with a personal anecdote:
I used to have a student called Sarah. She was a young, impressionable 17-years-old teenager, daughter of a history teacher turned Christian pastor, inhabitant of a nearby city known for its poverty, its lack of basic services, and its particularly higher social inequalities.
In person, Sarah was a devoted student, hungry for all kinds of knowledge, kind and nice to everyone around, eager to help, shy but quite articulate. A person that wouldn't stand out in any crowd, yet someone pleasant to have around.
Online, however, Sarah was a conservative, far-right militant against what she called abominations: feminism, homosexualism, communism and socialism, promiscuity, and the overall attack against the traditional family values. Of course, I never knew about that, because I could never care less about what my students were sharing on their personal profiles, but she seemed to catch some attention.
Most teachers at the project agreed upon embarking on a collective crusade against her online persona. Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed was quickly replaced by George Orwell's thought police, through massive condescension and snarky, patronizing comments directed at her. I guess they heard about power in numbers and understood as overpower in numbers. Of course, she remained unfazed, even joyful, as her pitiful attempt at attention-seeking paid the dividends she was expecting.
Eventally, Sarah became my personal student, being one of the few interested in Spanish studies. Classes had, at most, 3 students, but she was the only student present at many of them. Hit by the spotlights, Sarah proved herself quite the opposite of her Facebook profile: dedicated, empathetic, an over-explainer, but, mostly, a shy person, someone who would avoid confrontation at all costs. We quickly became friends: her sense of humor was magnetic; her openness, a rare monument of resistance amidst the sea of lies that the modern world has built.
It was with shock, thus, that I was informed by a fellow teacher that she was the one. The enemy. The devil. The one whose intolerance should not be tolerated in any circumstances. That short, cheeky 17-years-old girl was the threat.
I swept under the rug, though. That sweet girl eventually returned to the project as a volunteer, and I welcomed her with arms wide open. Her unreleting devotion to the project, allied to her laser-sharp focus on the objectives at hand, make her quite a nice addition to the team, and I hope she decides to stay. At the same time, I feel attached to her in some way: she's a joy to talk to, and she almost matches my implicant sense of humor.
And that's why Facebook sucks. Her online persona might be a façade, but the real she is a keeper.
Moral of the story: turn away from your phones and computers, and go talk to real people for a change. You might surprise yourself.
PS: I still read blogs, however. In fact, I wish more people would blog in their own websites, and less on shitty platforms such as Facebook or Medium. But that's for another post.