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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Antisocial media

by Brenda Looper | July 12, 2023 at 2:03 a.m.
Brenda Looper

My opinion on social media has never really been in doubt if you've read me for very long. While it has great capabilities to bring people together and inspire change, it is also easy to exploit by the lowest common denominator. That's why Saturday is almost always social-media-free for me so I have at least one day a week where the toxicity is negligible.

Whether it's a general comment board, a publication website, or the many social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), there are always trolls trying their worst to disrupt any attempt at productive discussion.

And again, for the people who continue to believe that I define a troll as anyone who disagrees with me ... sigh.

I use the same definition as countless online dictionaries and guides such as How-To Geek, which says, "An Internet troll is someone who makes intentionally inflammatory, rude, or upsetting statements online to elicit strong emotional responses in people or to steer the conversation off-topic. They can come in many forms. Most trolls do this for their own amusement, but other forms of trolling are done to push a specific agenda."

Want to talk about the problem of too many guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them? Say hello to the Second Amendment absolutists who refuse to believe that part of conservative icon Antonin Scalia's ruling in Heller v. D.C. explained that, though owning a gun is legal, the amendment isn't unlimited (just like the other amendments) and the government can place limits on the right to bear arms (through things like universal background checks and red-flag laws).

Want to ferret out the reasonable view on abortion (i.e., what the majority believe, which is that it should remain safe and legal till the viability threshold, with life and health of the mother excepted after that point)? Yeah, no, you're going to have to deal with those who believe that people are aborting willy-nilly in late pregnancy for birth control (I'm betting those people haven't been pregnant), even after birth (uh, that's illegal, and called infanticide).

And Lord help you if you bring up same-sex marriage or transgender people having the same rights as everyone else, that women belong in the pulpit, or that taking any action now against climate change is preferable to waiting for everyone to pull their weight and do the same (or that taking care of the planet is part of the Christian mission).

Heck, I've seen Facebook groups devoted to things like comics, cats, and grocery stores devolve into political cesspools. Like I needed another reason to dislike politics and the way nothing is safe from it anymore.

I'm cautiously optimistic for Threads, Meta's new platform similar to Twitter (though it needs a lot of work to make it truly usable, like an actual Internet site rather than just an app). So far from what I've seen, while there are a few outliers (Moms4Liberty, for one, who got the response they probably weren't expecting to a post about things that don't belong in schools), most people seem to be congenial and polite to each other, and actually interested in constructive conversation. Granted, my Threads feed is very similar to my Instagram feed, which is largely responsible news organizations, recipes, animals, science and history, but my blood pressure has been stable every time I've checked it.

(One of my favorite new follows is Openly Gay Animals [hold your indignation; think happy], a brand that celebrates the bond between humans and their pets, and posts adorable videos of animals. It's impossible not to smile when watching a video of an itty-bitty bunny eating grapes, penguins walking at five-times speed, or an otter getting some paw rubs from accommodating visitors to the zoo.)

Twitter, on the other hand, despite my following of more positive accounts (I don't rely on social media for news, nor should anyone), is almost unfailingly a horror show. Though it seems the advent of Twitter Blue has made trolls easier to spot and block, there are always those flying under the radar. (I've never tried to be verified on any of my social media accounts, and I'm sure not going to pay for it.) There's a reason I rarely post anything there.

On Facebook, we not only get trolls and politics in unwelcome places, but spammers and scammers infesting any public post (mine are mostly friends only; generally the only public posts I make are Voices letter and column requests). While it can be fun occasionally to mess with scammers, who tend to pose as widowers, doctors and active military on overseas assignments, when you're a nice person at heart, it just feels wrong ... even though that account was just created a few days prior and the only friends it has are people who also appear to be fake.

Then again, a friend and former co-worker got her first spammer/scammer on Threads the other day.

If we really need social media, I'm all for a platform that places value on authenticity and reasonableness in discussions and keeps hyperpartisan politics, trolling and deliberately provocative behavior at bay. Is it Threads? That remains to be seen.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

Print Headline: Antisocial media


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