Last winter I created an informal policy on what to do about the propaganda appearing in my social media news feed, particularly Facebook.
As remarked on this blog, social media is a frictionless platform for the rapid spread of propaganda messaging. Many people are outraged over something and for whatever reason are compelled to share their outrage online.
Being outraged all the time is not likely a healthy state of life. Thrusting your outrage on to your “friends” is probably not a wise idea and probably does not accomplish whatever you hope it should accomplish. Seeing a steady stream of outrage likely takes a toll on the mental health of all the “drive by victims” who see these posts in their own news feeds.
Every time you Like or Comment on a public post, you are Sharing that post with all your friends. Some people post little but comment a lot – not realizing that all their comments (often on politics) are shared on their Facebook page with all their friends. When you tag a friend in a post, your post is published on their “wall” or page. FB is set up to distribute your activities as widely as possible, to as many other people as possible, even without your realizing this is going on.
Last winter I adopted some policies on how I use social media. Social media had gotten out of control and far too often, my visits to social media caused me to feel upset, angry, depressed or anxious. This is the direct impact of high pressure propaganda messaging that floods social media.
I left social media for several weeks – during that time I decided I would use social media on my terms, not someone else’s terms.
That meant cleaning up my news feeds.
- First, I chose to post only items on FB that I personally create or which are created by a real life friend that I personally know. By adopting this policy, I stop the spread of social media propaganda, memes and fake news.
- Friends who share conspiracy theories or hate speech get unfriended quickly.
- Friends who post politics or propaganda exclusively over a period of weeks are unfriended. I have no desire to be bombarded with their politics (regardless of their political persuasion). I distinguish between items that are “thoughtful”, and provide an opportunity to think and learn – from those items that are just drive-by propaganda hit pieces. I have no interest in friends that post nothing but politics.
- I use the FB “Hide post” feature for those who post occasional propaganda and political items. Supposedly FB “learns” and improves its automatic filtering out of such items in the future.
- Friends who post multiple political propaganda pieces per week are unfollowed; I often mark their page to give “notifications” of updates, but I rarely read them. This way we remain “friends” but I don’t have to see their posts unless I feel like looking.
- I have never unfollowed or unfriended someone because of their political leanings – my unfollowing or unfriending comes because of the quantity of their posts and the desire to use Facebook primarily as a propaganda platform.
- I dropped out of some hobby oriented (non political) groups because members were not nice people. They tended to be arrogant and looked at newbie questions with disdain.
The result of these steps is I rarely see politics and – in fact – rarely see much propaganda in my Facebook news line anymore!
And leaving groups where people were not friendly means I now hang out almost entirely with friendly people, helping others and generally being happy. Being surrounded by mostly happy and helpful attitudes rubs off on our own mental health too – leaving us better for the experience. Compare and contrast to how you feel when surrounded by angry people shouting at you all the time!
On the downside, this means I have much less material to analyze for this blog! But perhaps that is a good thing!
Regardless, this illustrates what you might do to “clean up your news feed” and to avoid becoming a victim of propaganda, outrage and shouting- and avoid becoming a cog in the propaganda machine, which is what you are, when you Share, Like or Comment on any of those nasty posts.