I'm On A Facebook Diet Because Of Political Outrage OVERLOAD

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Self

Unfollow is the new black.

I've stopped clicking on political posts on Facebook. OK, so maybe that doesn't seem like that big a deal. But I've been a content publisher for years now, do social media management, and basically have spent the last decade using social media as a way to be informed, educated, and most of all to learn to see the world from perspectives different from my own.

I have friends both liberal and conservative, and even a handful of libertarian friends. For me, social media, including Facebook, has been a core part of my connection to the world.

So for me, walking away was hard.

In the years since the 2012 presidential election, click-baiting has become a fine-tuned art that content creators (yep, guilty as charged) use to get more and more traffic driven to their sites because more clicks equals more ad revenue, even when that revenue is a tenth of a penny at a time. Get enough clicks and those tenths of pennies add up fast.

So the era of headlines that breathlessly proclaimed small facts as huge travesties began. It was the gasoline poured on the kindling of everyone in the world being able to slap up a spurious, unedited or fact-checked political website that literally anyone without qualifications, knowledge or the basic ability to discern fact from fiction could write for.

Now the internet — and Facebook, in particular — is a motherf*cking forest fire that no one can put out.

During the primaries, I noticed a change in how people spoke to each other on Facebook. While I've had more political conversations on Facebook and other places on the web than I can count, I could usually reply on basic manners and kindness on my Facebook threads.

But suddenly, people who felt passionately about a candidate that I didn't like seemed hellbent on making me see the error of my ways by posting dismissive comments with links to those websites I described above. And when I (or anyone else) tried to counter with facts, the facts were dismissed, too. 

It got ugly really fast and I got sucked right in, hook, line and sinker. I was in those secret Facebook groups where we shared links that held up our side of the story. I became dismissive of others and had arguments with pretty much everyone on every side of every issue. I tried to do Facebook diets (logging off completely) to some occasional success, but I couldn't fully walk away until election day.

It was around this time I found Blue Feed/Red Feed, a site hosted by the Wall Street Journal that compares side-by-side what the liberal and conservatives are talking about on Twitter. At first, I spent my time gawking at the Red Feed section because I couldn't believe the crazy conspiracies and hysteria.

But then I noticed something: those sharing liberal and conservative content on Twitter used the same language, the same tone, and the same techniques. Soon you began hearing about "fake news" and how half these sites were made by the same people, just manipulating panicked folks to click, click, click. 

It was a wake-up call. I stopped reading a huge list of sites and blocking those sites from my feed on Facebook (here's how you can do that). I also began restricting my time on Facebook to a couple times a day. And best of all, I deleted the app from my phone (but I kept my groups app, messenger app, and pages app for work).

And now we have President Trump. And this first week of his presidency has been a doozy, hasn't it?

I've restricted my news sources to a very small few, but NPR is my main source now. I like my news presented calmly with more information so I can know how seriously to take the headlines that fly by on Facebook.

For instance, I watched the news that the White House had taken down multiple pages from WhiteHouse.gov sweep my Facebook stream with breathless hysteria — only to hear on NPR later that this happens whenever the White House changes hands.

Facebook still offers the ability to organize and discover important issues that require action so I'm glad I'm still checking in once or twice a day. But I ignore the links and instead pick up my phone to call my congressman or join a march. Seems like a far better use of my time.


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