To me social media are a decidedly mixed blessing. On the one hand, they allow us to connect with acquaintances who would have been long lost without the reach of electronic friendship. They bring us in contact with new friends, sometimes across the world. And as someone who communicates for a living, I appreciate that they help me speak to an audience I will never find gathered in one room.
At the same time, as a confirmed and irrepressible introvert, I find the constant chatter almost as overwhelming as if I were standing in the same room with everyone I know–and kind of know–at the same time. I can’t give each person, let alone each posting, close attention, and my natural desire to do so leaves me frustrated and exhausted. Plus we all know social media “conversations” can bring out the very worst in people. Even laying trolls aside, it’s way too easy to hide behind the safety of a screen and say things we’d never say to people face to face.
So as an interested party, I have a few ideas for ways the experience of using social media might be improved. I share them here for the good of humanity.
1. a banality filter
This option would put power in the hands of the consumer, allowing us to quickly filter out posts about the contents of friends’ breakfasts and their cats’ regurgitated offerings.
2. an “are you sure?” fail-safe
This step would assess pending posts for offensive or idiotic material and simply ask the user to confirm the intention to put it out there. The face it saves may be your own.
3. a “say that to my face” feature
Before posting comments or tagging people, a user would be forced to look at a close-up of the person’s face and consider the consequences. When technology catches up to this idea, the consequences will be real, ranging from tears on the affected person’s face to a fist that emerges from the screen and takes a swing. You know, the kind of thing that might happen if we said these things in close proximity.
4. a limit on friends you’ve never actually met
A certain percentage (let’s say 25 percent) of connections should be certified (by both parties) as actual flesh-and-blood acquaintances. A person who reaches the limit will have to put down the phone and laptop and go talk to someone.
5. an electronic shredder
Yes, we can sometimes delete the stupid things we say or the awful pictures friends post from when we had those ridiculous glasses…but wouldn’t it be nice if they could be truly gone?
6. travel rewards
So this is just dreaming, and I’m not sure who’s going to pay for it. But if I can get a certain number of friends who are located in the same place, I think I deserve to win a free trip to hang out with them there.
7. an “acknowledge” button
Sometimes the “like” or “favorite” just won’t do. I don’t like it–but I want to acknowledge it in a neutral fashion.
8. an “empathy” button
A similar idea. Do I “like” it that your grandma died? No. Do I want to make a stupid and trivial comment to show I care (at a time when it may be best to remain silent), only to be deluged by notifications of similar comments from others? No. I would like to express my condolences in a more dignified manner.
9. a subject-matter filter
I’m sorry, but on the really bad days I don’t want to see your vacation photos.
10. an “unsee” button
Sometimes you just want to go back to the way you were before you saw that.