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Another brick in the wall

Ugliness of Social Media

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

I  use social media because, as a writer who’s trying to promote my work and as a graduate student who’s entering the job market soon, having a social media presence is probably a career necessity. Sometimes I wish we were still in a pre-internet era, because social media causes a lot of anxiety.

I consider myself to be very conflict-averse. Arguments make me anxious. When I used to have nearly 1000 friends on Facebook, people I hadn’t talked to in years would try to start political arguments with me all the time. This was also nearly impossible to avoid when I worked on political campaigns and posting about current events was basically a required part of my job.

Being a political science student, I’ve found it’s basically impossible to write about what I research without offending someone. Occasionally, random people on Twitter comment on my posts because I apparently said something they disagree with, and they wanted to start an argument with me, someone they’ve never met. My general policy has been to ignore them.

Other nasty comments from strangers have been more concerning. One time I published an article on the website Medium that, in part, detailed former Sen. Al Franken’s resignation from Congress after multiple women accused him of inappropriate touching. Another Medium user, who was apparently a supporter of Franken, wrote his own post linking to my profile, used my photo and called me a “bot” in the caption, and essentially encouraged his supporters to shame me.

The post was taken down after a few hours since this user had violated Medium’s copyright and anti-harassment policy. Out of paranoia, I checked this user’s other social media profiles to make sure he hasn’t also posted my photo all over Twitter as well.

I’m concerned that increased online communication has given people a distance from one another to the point that social media users don’t realize who they’re interacting with is an actual human being. However, I’ve decided not to let people’s malicious comments prevent me from doing my job, or just prevent me from expressing my opinion as a politically engaged citizen. Personally, I think being afraid to say anything is essentially letting trolls win.

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