People are the worst.

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Finally – an excuse to post and laugh at celebrities reading mean tweets! I can laugh at them because they are celebrities reading them and they have lots of money, so I don’t feel as bad about the sexism and hatred spewing out of these random Twitter users. Right?

It’s amazing that this supposed free and open space, The World Wide Web, is often filled with some of the most hateful vitriol that you can find. But, it helps to remember that these words came from a human being that likely existed before the web did (or soon after). These thoughts were not created by the web; they were created by a person at the keyboard. Hence, people are the worst.

It’s important to explore the idea that the web, and also networks, reinforces behaviours that have existed in our society for centuries. Sexism and racism are not new. The medium and speed at which we can share sexism and racism is the change, not the content necessarily. Kadushin notes that, “social network are exclusionary and unfair. Since people tend to associate with others like themselves…the networks that they form tend to be with people who have the same characteristics” (172).

My own Facebook friends help to illustrate this–I am friends (mainly) with other liberal, educated people who are early-to-mid-level in their careers. For the most part, we have similar tastes, opinions and leanings. To be sure, there are people on my feed that I disagree with or find annoying. If they bug me enough though, I unfollow them and reinforce Kadushin’s point I mentioned above.

Kadushin notes Robert Putnam’s definition of social capital as “…participation in political, civic, religious, workplace activities, volunteering and informal networks leads to a culture of social trust and to networks with generalized reciprocity that bridge different groups. This is social capital” (177).

I think a mistake that we make is to think that only “good” people have social capital. Workplace activities, volunteering and informal networks exist among all types of networks. Good, bad and ugly. Like the celebrity tweets above, there is a certain amount of respect that comes from getting their tweet on Kimmel. Like the troll commenter who gains the respect of her troll peers, it exists for all.

So, how do you change it? I don’t know if you can. Like Kadushin says – social networks are the way they are. They were exclusionary before the web (remember the cafeteria, again?) and will be exclusionary after it. I say, stop reading the comments and educate your children about being a respectful human. After all, it’s the humans typing those words.

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7 thoughts on “People are the worst.

  1. I don’t understand the follow people like you mentality. What’s the point? I don’t just follow liberals or conservatives. I actually enjoy following both and seeing their stupidity and political ideologies play out. Kramer always gives me a hard time about following Ted Cruise, Ezra and SE Cupp, but I enjoy their banter. I also follow Trudeau and NDP people.

    • Well, you might want to revisit homophily, which is the reference there. And to be sure, I READ other points of view, but I also don’t have the people you mention on my Facebook. I was using my personal network as the example, not reading the news on Twitter. There is a difference between following people on Twitter to get POVs and having them as your friends in your personal network.

      • How different is it? Fox News Effect. How do your “personal” and “news” networks fit together? Interesting how you separate Twitter as news and Facebook as personal.

      • Social networks aren’t the same as social media platforms/social networkING. Facebook is a platform for my personal network – Twitter might be your main platform (which is why this is a personal illustration, not a fact). The people within Facebook will exist as my personal network beyond the lifetime of the platform. See Week 4 of the Wiki. Removing the platforms, I get my news from news sources and opinions on those issues from my personal ties, who I choose to be because of similarities in taste and preference. Yes, there are some outliers in a personal network of people who are vastly different from me- but I probably wouldn’t invite them over for a BBQ on the weekend.

  2. I also separate my social media platforms for different purposes. Facebook profile is for homophillic friends, Facebook page is for anyone, Twitter is for homophillic and effectant-type news and networking.

  3. My Facebook friends are … diverse. I’ve somehow remained friends with several people since high school. We have a bond that goes back years and years, and still, many things in common, but … one friend is a sexist, climate-change denying, non-voting moron whom I try very, very hard to not Facebook-fight with. My brother-in-law works in the oil industry and this somehow blinds him to many of the realities of the real world, despite his great intelligence. Let me just say that election time is interesting on my Facebook. As well, many of my boyfriends’ friends are mine, now, after four years. I’m a moderate, science-loving, non-practising Catholic. Some of them are atheists. Some of their atheist friends are not nice.

    I’m a jerk, too though. As much as I try to unfollow boards on Pinterest, I feel like I can’t unfollow people who follow me, because it’s such a loose network already. (It would be just plain cold to cut someone out of such a holey network.) So I created a board called “OMG NO” and pin their worst stuff up there. Maybe that will be my useful negative social capital.

  4. Great post! Favourite line – “I think a mistake that we make is to think that only “good” people have social capital.” I think association of the word ‘social’ in social capital may send off a warm and fuzzy feeling, when, as you rightly point out, it may not always be good people benefiting from it.

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