I see a lot of my physician colleagues online, ranting about all of the misinformation about COVID that they read on Facebook.  They are shocked, stunned and disgusted that people would say things that were untrue, or inflammatory, on a social media platform!

Worse, they use this is a kind of sampling tool to tell them, with unerring accuracy, what the mood of the populace is.  And in this manner, decide that people are uniformly stupid and unscientific.

Obviously, it isn’t only physicians who fall into this trap.  All too many see Facebook (and other social media platforms) as both sources of information and as accurate representations of society.

It’s a fascinating thing to watch. Because as a writer, I went through my ‘social media’ phase and came out on the other side.  Shaken, but intact.  Earlier this year I put my Twitter account to sleep.  Unlike dogs I have had put down, I felt no remorse about Twitter. It wasn’t cute or cuddly anymore. It was just toxic. It smelled bad and it tended to bite for no reason.

While I still spend some time on Facebook because there are a few useful groups (and some friends I care about), I tend not to use it to try to sway anyone’s opinion. And I also do not use it to gauge the mood of the public.  And why is that, the discerning reader asks?

Because it’s Twitter’s inbred cousin and is also toxic.  The difference is that on Twitter, 90% of posts are written by 10% of users and they are typically angry, aggressive and more than happy to call the Twitter gods to have your account suspended for using the wrong pronoun, being insensitive to their view of history or some other form of double-plus wrong-think/thought-crime.  Facebook, on the other hand, is a little more widely used across a range of groups.  Nevertheless it is equally capable of spreading ridiculous ideas, insults, false information, anger, gossip and the whole gamut negativity humans are capable of communicating. From my experience, it’s just a little easier to get kicked off of Twitter than Facebook.

If you still aren’t convinced that FB is not the place to go for anything but entertainment, here are a few interesting links:

Hat Tip Instapundit:  https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/ (My main go-to source for current events and thought provoking articles.)

This article, behind a WSJ paywall, says that the rules on Facebook aren’t for everyone. If you’re ‘big’ enough, you get to do what you want.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-files-xcheck-zuckerberg-elite-rules-11631541353

This suggests that the caring individuals at Facebook are well aware of the toxicity of social media in the form of Instagram and it’s effect on young women, but c’est la vie!

https://pjmedia.com/columns/megan-fox/2021/09/15/they-knew-internal-facebook-data-shows-company-knows-instagram-harms-teens-n1479196

And this gem says that not only do the algorithms read you, they could create fake versions of you to use for their own purposes!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonyewing/2021/01/03/warning-facebook-and-twitter-are-dangerous-even-if-youve-never-used-them/?sh=4bece3e5271e

And of course, the following emphasizes what we knew all along, which means that no matter how smart we are, we could just be looking for things that agree with what we already believe. Could this cause my physician colleagues to judge their fellow Facebook citizens too harshly, or incorrectly?  Maybe.

https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2021/09/14/bias-misinformation-people-hear-what-they-want-to-study/4651631623349/

I have seen lots of bad information come and go on social media.  People of every political stripe jump on whatever they (or we I should say) believe is consistent with, well, what we believe. Whether it was has to do with the allegedly deadly dangers of COVID vaccines, mockery of the idea (now generally plausible) that COVID came from a lab, the death of Jeffrey Epstein or something cultural like the story of Nick Sandmann, the high school student who was the object of hatred and rage across social media for his obviously racist, white-supremacist attitude and MAGA hate.  (Who, thanks in no small part to social media, is quite a lot richer now.)  https://www.bostonherald.com/2020/07/24/washington-post-settles-250m-lawsuit-with-teen-in-a-maga-hat/

All I’m saying is this: “OF COURSE IT’S MISINFORMATION! IT’S SOCIAL MEDIA!”

Let’s stop pretending that anybody has the corner on truth when it comes to us via the media that we use to simultaneously discuss a deadly pandemic, post videos of the milk-crate challenge, share images of cats being freaked out by bananas and also discuss how angry we are at the clerk at the local WalMart who was ‘SO RUDE.’

Social media is a strange environment, and it can be useful and fun, but only with taken with a gigantic grain of salt, and with the intent to turn it off quite often and do something actually beneficial to your life. Like take a nap, trim your toe-nails, take a walk, hug your spouse, actually put a banana next to your cat, read a book, call your grandmother, take up a hobby…you get the drift.

And to my colleagues, all I can say is just stop it.  You won’t win arguments online and you won’t be one bit happier trying.

Edwin

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