The first weeks of the new year were celebrated by some on social media with a list of things to embrace and a list of things to leave behind in 2023. The things we’re supposed to leave behind range from harmless fads and trends, like butter boards and modern farmhouse decor, to truly evil things like homophobia and racism. Most of them fall somewhere in between, with “hustle culture” being a popular choice for something to leave behind.
Here are some internet behaviors to leave behind in 2023.
Social media “challenges” that harm rather than help others.
Social media challenges are far from new. They are in fact, so old that the type of behavior often seen in social media challenges predates social media by several decades. Teens in the 1950s used to challenge each other to see how many people they could stuff inside a phone booth at the same time. But these types of social challenges, now social media challenges, have reached a whole new level of thoughtlessness recently. The latest one, as of the writing of this article, asks the participant to lie to someone else that a favorite celebrity has died, and film the target’s reaction for your own and your online audience’s entertainment. Previous ones have asked people to walk on stacks of boxes that are sure to fall, put poisonous substances in their mouths, and perform other dangerous acts, all for the amusement of an online audience.
This year, if we want to do social media challenges, let’s design challenges that focus a little less on ourselves and how much attention we can get, and a little more on other people and how we can serve them. Challenge your friends and collaborators to raise money for a local charity. Spend a week leaving service people huge tips. Start an acts of kindness challenge.
Frantic praise and compliments.
Around a year and a half ago, a young woman wrote something about “Promising Young Woman” on her Facebook page. The post stayed visible for quite some time, as people rushed to add comments like, “Promising young woman is amazing and beautiful and fascinating. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep being you. Don’t let anybody tell you that you are anything less than a star!”
“Promising Young Woman” is a 2020 movie about a woman who employs vigilante justice against some young men who committed sexually based crimes against her. The person who made the post was not even talking about herself.
Perhaps some people enjoy these types of frantic, overblown compliments and excessive praise, but many people find them more embarrassing than uplifting or encouraging. They also come across as insincere. In some cases, they read as condescending, like praising a toddler for their “excellent” use of a spoon. Other times, frantic praise and compliments come across as an attention-getting contest for the commenter. When someone’s post does not move you, just scroll past it. You do not owe anyone praise or a compliment. If you have a sincere compliment to pay someone online, just pay them the compliment using the same words you would use if you were complimenting them in person, offline.
Using the word “boundaries.”
Letting people know that you will not put up with their pushy, rude, bossy, or controlling behaviors anymore is called “standing up for yourself.”Choosing not to do certain things because you know them to be morally wrong is called having integrity. Deciding what you will and will not do is simply making decisions about your life. Snapping at people to quit talking about a subject because it’s not what you want to discuss is just you being rude. Learn how to gracefully change the topics of conversations, and if that doesn’t work, circle back to “standing up for yourself.”
The only reason we like to call everything “our boundaries” is because “having boundaries” or “setting boundaries,” garners praise, even when the actual behavior described is selfish to the point of being chilling. If I told you an acquaintance called me crying last night, and I coldly informed them that I simply did not care enough about them to make sure they were okay, you’d think I might be a psychopath. If I told the same story, but said that I “set a boundary” that they couldn’t call me at night, I’d get praised for my amazing ability to “set boundaries.”
Attending “The University of Facebook.”
Everybody’s opinion is equally valid and important when it comes to completely subjective opinions. These are opinions formed only by our own thoughts and feelings, with no concrete knowledge to back them up. Everybody’s opinion is not equally valid or important when it comes to professional opinions, formed by extensive study, research, and practice in a field.
Extensive study occurs when you start at the most basic level in a field and slowly advance in knowledge and insight through continuous, rigorous study until you are able to design your own projects in that field, and form your own theories and professional opinions based on that knowledge. At the most basic level, research involves gathering and discussing the findings and teachings of established experts in the field. More advanced research requires designing your own project or experiment. And practice in a field means you have worked in that field for several years.
None of these things can be achieved simply by typing terms into a search engine until you find another random person who tells you what you want to hear.
Ordering people not to talk about what you post
When you post about something online, you are already talking about it with everyone you have allowed to access your page. If you fill up a profile page with information about your family, you are talking about your family with everyone who views your profile. Posting pictures of the religious books you read starts an online conversation about religion. Sharing your household budget on Facebook is talking about your finances with everyone who sees your page.
Posting, “Talking about my family is off limits,” or “I am not posting this to start a religious discussion” or “My finances are nobody’s business, but here’s my budget” is a ploy to draw more attention to the topic…and we all know it. If you truly did not want to discuss your religious beliefs, your family, or your finances, it would be much easier, not to mention much more likely that nobody would talk about them with you online, if you simply did not mention them online in the first place.
Going online to inform everyone that the world was perfect before the internet
Nostalgia for decades past is normal, and it is normal to romanticize favorite decades. But the world was not perfect back in the days when, as one popular meme states, “We got spanked and had our mouths washed out with soap for talking back to our parents. We ate what was on our plate, etc.”
The most popular memes are vague about when this supposed glorious time to be alive might have been, but some of the details make it sound like they’re referring to a time period before the counterculture of the 1960s arose, perhaps the 1940s through the 1950s. This may have indeed been a time of riding your bike, respecting your elders, and drinking from the hose. It was also a time of segregation, lack of civil rights for all Americans, and the hiding of problems like domestic violence and child abuse.
Making these internet memes even more nerve-grating is the fact that they are…well…memes on the internet. You are on the internet when you post memes about how life with the internet is horrible, and life before the internet was wonderful. If you truly hate the internet that much, stay off of it. Delete all your social media accounts, tell your friends they need to call you on a landline or send you letters via postal mail. Refuse to use online banking or bill pay. While the world is increasingly functioning online, there are still very few situations where you are actually forced to be on the internet. And you have certainly chosen to be on it if you’re sitting there posting memes.
These behaviors may not be as detrimental to our society…not to mention in violation of the word of God…as homophobia and racism. But they are a little more unnerving than buttering a board and using rustic wood in the kitchen. Let’s replace them with things that genuinely encourage, entertain, and serve others this year.
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com