With the shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights last week, everyone has an opinion on who’s to blame, and they aren’t shy about posting to social media.
A constant wave of conflicting ideas on the root of these tragedies and how they were handled can become overwhelming for some. And hearing the bad news time and time again on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram could cause people to turn away from their feeds altogether. So has this slew of posts on the shootings incited people to go on a social media “diet” or “cleanse”?
We already have conversations on the recent news in the home, on television and news publications, so has the bombardment of information about the shootings caused you to abstain from social media? Are you glued to your phone, or has the surge of posts on the shootings caused you to swear off social media, at least for the time being.
So has this slew of posts on the shootings incited people to go on a social media diet?
Brant Burkey, assistant professor of communications at Cal State Dominguez Hills, talked with KPCC's Larry Mantle on Monday. Burkey said the advent of social media has brought with it a “promise of democratization,” but he suggested that this has led to increasing polarization in discourse that turns off some to social media. Burkey said it is important to be exposed to viewpoints different than your own, but reminded listeners they can select who and what is in their social network.
Brant Burkey: Information shouldn’t always agree with you. It’s great to get all these different opinions, but you also have to be very selective as to where the source is coming from and the perspective -- whether it agrees with you or not.
Larry Mantle: How would you urge people to curate social media to deal with what you’re raising?
Burkey: Part of it just has to do with being selective of who is in your social network, and that’s one of the easiest things that you can look at. If you’re finding that vitriol is just a bit too much to bear, you can just always just de-friend someone. It’s a simple process that you can go through through Facebook. You can choose not to follow certain sources or certain people, and ultimately you can just choose not to look.
Isaac, a self-described ‘Facebook provocateur’ from Hollywood, also said that there is value being exposed to viewpoints different than your own on social media. He tries to provide such viewpoints to his friends.
“The reason I do it is because I find that my social circles are so overwhelmingly lopsided in one way that I work to try and present the other perspective,” he said.
May, a caller from Pomona, sees a different value in social media. She said that social media provide a forum for debate that can inspire activism and facilitate organizing.
Larry Mantle: How do you feel about social media in times like this?
May in Pomona: I don’t want less of it, I want more! I can’t get away from my computer. [The proper role of policing in our society] is a debate that we have been talking about in this country that we haven’t been able to have a public forum for for many years -- since Ron Settles, since Eula Love. We need more, not less.
Still, many AirTalk listeners saw value in stepping away from their social media profiles.
Antoine, a caller from Long Beach, said that his ‘social media diet’ provided him with perspective.
Antoine in Long Beach: When I was in the military I took about a six-to-eight-month hiatus —this was back in 2010 and you know there was a lot going on. All of a sudden I came back with a fresh set of eyes in being able to discern what the real information was and the false information was. Of course it is subjective, but I just feel like nowadays I’m forced to take a position to the right or left as opposed to taking a rational decision as an American.
Larry Mantle: It sounds like when you came back from that hiatus, you felt like you had a [better] sense of yourself?
Antoine in Long Beach: Exactly. I was able to really prioritize what I thought were my moral and political views, that I think should be not necessarily be enforced, that I that I think should be heard. At the same time, I don’t think that it should be so overwhelming that I block out all other conversation. That dialog needs to be open.
Has the bombardment of information about the shootings caused you to abstain from social media? Are you glued to your phone, or has the surge of posts on the shootings caused you to swear off social media?
Brant Burkey, Ph.D., assistant professor of communications at Cal State Dominguez Hills, specializing in journalism and media studies, new media and culture