I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I see the benefits of it. I've made new friends and acquaintances. I've learned all about butterfly gardening (something I've always wanted to do) by joining a Facebook group, and made notes about new places I want to travel from members of another group.
And, of course, as an author, it's lovely to interact so easily with my readers. This is a great improvement over the days when readers sent letters to my agent or publisher, who then forwarded the mail to me. Sometimes, weeks had passed before I received the letters!
But there's no doubt that social media is too often a destructive force.
A few years ago, I made a deliberate choice. I decided I would not engage with social media provocateurs, whether or not I agree with their point or issue. This way, I'm not adding any fuel to the fire.
Of course, sometimes this is hard to do. Sometimes, a post seems like a junior high school dare. I feel as if I'm expected to participate, and that I'm a coward if I don't speak my mind, too.
But first, let's remember that Facebook algorithms, according to a high-ranking Facebook whistleblower, reward anger and outrage. This is wrong, and I'm not going to buy into it.
Second, it's not as if the only way to exercise your right of free speech is through social media. It's not even a particularly effective option, if what you hope to do is change someone's mind, according to recent studies.
There is also the issue of Internet privacy. By participating in every rage du jour, you're handing a ton of revealing information about yourself to Facebook or other social media corporations. Why do that?
Last but not least, it simply isn't healthy or the best use of time to get caught up in a social media argument.
Several times over the years, I have considered quitting all social media altogether. Instead, I just take a break from a few hours to a few days, depending on how annoyed I am.
Ultimately, it's worth it to me. I'd miss hearing from old friends. I'd miss all the posts of dogs, cats, babies, birthdays, new books, and stunning sunsets. On my Facebook Author Page, I'd miss reflecting on the interesting people I've met through my career, or answering questions about my books. When I don't have much to say, I look for something to share, often about history or nature. Life is what you make of it.
And so is social media.