i Need Media

A writer offers his social media resolutions

By Matthew Singer 12/19/2013

     As you might expect, I spend a lot of time online. It’s not really a “second life” for me as it is for some people, but much like IRL (in real life), some things could certainly change to make it a better place to partially exist. Heading into 2014, here are my four social media New Year’s resolutions.

Stop with the damn Upworthy re-posts

     This is the year linkalism broke — as in “broke out like herpes all over everyone’s Facebook walls.” Many sites adopted the “repackage a GIF/list/YouTube video with a sanctimonious headline” approach, though none was more grating and egregious than Upworthy. You may not even recognize the name of the site, but you’ve undoubtedly been suckered into clicking on one of the links. A sampling of its featured headlines at press time: “Head Doctor Says a Rich Kid Isn’t Guilty BECAUSE He’s Rich. Reporter Says What We’re All Thinking.”

“A Video on Why Condoms Aren’t Perfect Will Make You Laugh More Than Worry You.”

“Parents Should Never Outlive Their Children. Can We All Agree on That, at Least?”

No! No we can’t! Stop telling me how I should feel about everything!
You’re allowed to post one Buzzfeed link per month

     In a lot of ways, everyone’s favorite random-list generator, Buzzfeed, is just as bad as Upworthy — except it occasionally has entire posts full of puppy photos. For that, it gets a small pass, but can we all agree to lay off in 2014? Just stop and think: Is that  “25 Tropical Fish That Look Like Harry Potter Characters” really something you need to share?

If you know nothing, say nothing

     When Paul Walker died, there were the requisite Tweets of shock, but mixed among the gasps (and too-soon jokes) were nearly as many posts asking, “Who is Paul Walker?” First of all: Google. Use it. Secondly, if you don’t know who someone is, it’s totally OK not to say anything about them. As social media has amplified the chatter of the “national conversation,” it’s also made people feel as if they need to throw their voices into the fray even if they’ve got nothing to add to the dialogue. Just sit some things out once in a while.  
Quit acting as if social media means “social barometer”

     A spinoff of the “talking loud but saying nothing” trend is what I call “the Grief Olympics.” Social media users using celebrity deaths to show how much more “cultured” they are than the rest of us. Going back to the Paul Walker example, on the day of his death, my respective feeds were filled with complaints about mourning “a shitty actor” as opposed to, say, some 80-year-old classical pianist or obscure foreign dignitary who passed away that same week. Things got worse when Nelson Mandela died and people started measuring the number of posts about Mandela against those about Walker in their timelines. Look, no one’s going to argue levels of cultural import between the star of the Fast and Furious franchise and the man who ended apartheid, and nothing that happens on social media is going to rearrange history. That’s the ultimate resolution going into 2014: Don’t take the Internet so damn seriously.

I Need Media is a biweekly media column by Matthew Singer. Follow him on Twitter@mpsinger.

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