Twitter – social media in general, actually – let’s us create our own universes – and that is both good and bad.
We choose who we follow and that’s great because it means that we get to fill our online life with people who inspire us.
The problem with creating our own little online universes is that it makes it so easy to forget that their is an entire world of people out there who think entirely differently to you and who you choose to follow.
I have very mixed feelings about social media. On the whole, I think it great. It connect us. It can motivate us. It can introduce to different people and ideas that might change how we see the world. But social media has a dark side (I know that this is not news) and we see that dark side pop up often. Are we spending too much time on social media and not enough time in the real world, forging relationships and actually doing instead of just posting about doing? How negative is only posting the best aspects of our lives and creating a “perfect” – but somewhat false – online presence? And, the factor that I have been thinking about the most recently, how are our manufactured online universes blinding us to the real world?
This aspect of social media only cropped up in my life because of the American presidential election. I never thought that Trump would actually win. According to absolutely everyone I follow on social media, it just wasn’t going to happen. My little “twitter-sphere” represented such a liberal, loving, accepting sector of the world. But then Trump won and I realized that I was living in a bubble, albeit a very happy bubble of people who share my values and beliefs. How could Trump have been voted in when everything in my life pointed to a world that was moving forward and becoming less conservative? I felt lost and a bit confused and then I started thinking about how much we create our online lives.
Social media is all about choices – we choose who we follow, what we post, what we like and comment on. We choose who we want to be and we are free to choose differently whenever we like by following new people, deleting old tweets or starting a new account. We can make the world look however we want it to online – if you’re a feminist, follow feminist accounts. If you identify as LGBT, there will be people talking about the issues that are important you. If you are like me, you probably follow a million writers, foodie accounts and cute animals which makes the world look like everyone works for themselves writing books and making incredible food while an adorable dog chills in a cute pose. It’s really nice in my online world – but sometimes it is still necessary to go outside.
The world, unfortunately, is not the unicorn and rainbow perfection of social media. We have to go outside and confront the fact that Trump was voted in, millions of people live in poverty and there are many minority groups that are still struggling for their rights to be recognized (in the flippen 21st century!!!!). Online, it may look like we have solved the world’s problems such as sexism, racism and homophobia because we only follow people whose values align with ours. Outside, though, we have to actively check our privilege and recognize that there are many people who still have to deal with hate and discrimination on a daily basis. Our social media bubbles are great for showing us what we want the world to look like – but we have to remember that there is a still a real world that we have to operate in that does not look like the one that we have created for ourselves online. Trump – in the one positive thing that he has done – reminded me of that.
This has maybe been a bit of a rant but my takeaway from the Trump election debacle has been this: look up from your phone once and a while. Have a look at what’s really going on in the world. Read books and watch movies about people who are different to you and have lived different lives. Talk to people who are different to you. And then go out and make the world a little bit better.