I'm always amazed at how nice folks I meet on the internet are. Maybe it's because I primarily use LinkedIn, but I've been poured into by so many folks via phone calls and video chats. Just today I spent a half hour talking to a copywriter who gave me a glimpse into a career I'd like to check out. I mean, what an amazing dude to give some of his hard earned knowledge and wisdom to a kid who reached out over the interweb.
While it's true that I think there are a lot of kind people out there on the internet, I have to wonder why my experience with the internet and social media is so vastly different. I've never experienced cyber-bulling and I've never had nasty comments come my way, even when my posts were heavily religious and pretty easy to make fun of.
In part, I think my positive experience has been because of my avoidance of social media. I've only ever had Instagram (only for a year), Snapchat (only for friends from home), and a Facebook (only for messenger). I basically only use these platforms to keep in touch and I rarely scroll or reach out to folks I don't know.
My philosophy around social media is that it should enhance my real life. So I Snapchat my friend from Mexico because I want to keep our relationship strong. Now it turns out she is coming back to America to work on her thesis and thanks to Snapchat, we won't miss a beat.
Wherever I go, I'm notorious for being on the phone often and it's part of my strategy to make social media a part of my "real" life. I keep up with folks on social media (mostly using messengers), then catch up over the phone to really hear how folks are doing.
What is weird though, is that among my friends, this approach is pretty normal. And I don't think many of my friends have negative experiences on social media. So I'm still left wondering, what causes negative experiences on social media?
Certainly the fact that there are mean people out there who can hide behind a keyboard doesn't help matters. But is this tendency of social media to turn ugly in part a systemic issue? Is the way we are encouraged to use the platform part of the problem?