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Social Media Sucks

Published: Sep 10 2018

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Why Does It Suck?

The idea of social media is just fine. You can keep up with friends. You can find events. You can keep up on politics. What's not to love? 

Most social media is not tailored for you to start with. You can start personalizing it until you are left with nothing but an echo chamber of your own beliefs. Many people notice that only the best stuff is put on your social media. The best vacation photos. The cutest baby pictures. The coolest jobs. 

I see those things. I also see the worst parts of humanity on social media. I don't have to stray far from my family and friends to see how people outside of my 'echo chamber' are. Many people see it if they view any politics online. An article about how a policy could affect poor people will, almost guaranteed, have comments about how poor people are less than human and should be exterminated. Many of the comments won't be as horrible but will be just as heartless. 

I am part of a minority in that I am a trans woman. I get to see even worse stuff directed at me. Most of it is easy for me to see as completely fabricated and, without fail, hateful. To others with no knowledge or perspective it might appear logical and sound. It's almost unavoidable and there is almost no recourse for being a despicable person on social media. I have lost track of how many accounts I have reported, and that is when I delve into the comments at all. For every report I get a response of how it's not against their platforms rules to be a detestable human. I can almost predict every type of misleading comment that will be made. 

Most of the comments will not lead with the hate, at least directly. They will use concern trolling instead. Here is a common example: "I don't care if trans women want to exist. I just don't want all the kids to be turned trans or see them in the girls bathroom!" or "Trans women are just confused men and I want them to get help!". These are just the first two that I recalled and there are plenty of others. Often if they are proven wrong they will move the goalpost or reveal their real agenda in further comments. 

If you are reading this you probably can figure out why those two statements are at there very best misleading but I will break it down.

First, nobody is "turning" kids trangender. It's the same scare tactic as "turning kids gay". If you could turn someone gay or trans then there would, almost by definition, be a way to turn them straight or cis. It has been tried, repeatedly, and disastrously many times.

Second, instead of thinking of trans women (or men) as their proper gender you just label them as crazy and needing help. Clearly the comment author knows more than the variety of medical and psychological professionals that many trans people deal with as well as the trans person themselves. This is similar to the "turning" thing. When you see this you can assume the person is either completely ignorant, which many people are, or intentionally a bigot. The reason is because transition is the help. Across the world transition is the most effective treatment for gender dysphoria. The person who makes the statement either hasn't been made aware or they are really saying they disagree with the medical consensus, either because they think it's some worldwide conspiracy or, more likely, they actually want worse outcomes for trans people.

Trans women (and trans men) going to the bathroom could be an entire article on it's own. It should be obvious to everyone with any intelligence and integrity that people are using the bathroom as intended and this isn't an issue.

How Can We Fix It?

The most obvious solution, and standard reply, is to ignore it. Just abstain from ever reading any comments anywhere. This could work but it is pretty unlikely that you will be able to forgo all social media (and many other medias) while keeping up on current events and/or friends. You can see that I added other media there. If/when the behavior is normalized enough it will be seen in other media, like television and movies, where it is further normalized. Ignoring issues is unlikely to get a minority group out of a repressed state. You probably don't have to think long to recall a "joke" or tv/movie segment where the punchline is that the woman has a penis. This should be on the same level as the punchline being that the person is black. If you don't see anything wrong with that then I can only hope you do some reflecting and become a better person.

The next solution would be a fundamental change to how social media exists. Make people accountable for their behavior. I may change my tactic from reporting an account to digging and messaging their peers/family with their behavior or I may keep deciding they are not worth the energy expended. It may be that their friends and family are wholly supportive of this behavior and I would make myself their next target.

An even more radical idea would be to restrict what you view on social media to your own circle, maybe 2nd or 3rd connections as well. This is most obvious for Facebook but I can't see how it would be feasible for something like Twitter. It's probably not really feasible and would cause other problems undoubtedly but in this thought experiment it is a possibility.

None of the social media sites that I have used has been free of these issues. As a whole it makes me shy away from engaging with them. When I do take a peek into the platform I am met with constant barrages of hate, just for existing and trying to live a life worth living. I feel like I have a fairly thick skin and I can easily see how this toxic behavior can affect younger people.

I didn't touch on this but I have a theory that many of the accounts are actually bots, trolls, shills, or otherwise sock-puppets. Essentially I don't believe most of the accounts that spout this abuse are able to change their positions because they are not "real" positions or people. I will save that for another time.

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