We all spend an inordinate amount of time socialising online. Far more than we do in the physical world, that’s for sure. I know a lot of people worry that this is a bad thing but I’m not one of them. As a person who likes to have discussions and see what other people are thinking about or doing, but isn’t always so keen on intense mingling with a large number of people, social media is a blessing. It has actually been an excellent way to filter people, for me anyway.

Facebook, in particular, has been a godsend in helping me sort out who I actually want in my life. Some people seem nice enough at social things, when you first meet them. But friending them on facey shows a whole other side to the mild-mannered guy you had a beer with at your friend’s barbecue. You might have spoken about a mutual love of Game of Thrones, but you didn’t ask his opinion on refugees, marriage equality and climate change, if you know what I mean. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to identify, fairly quickly, who my kinda people are. I realised a while ago now that life isn’t like school, where you have to be friends with everybody. If someone is a jerk, you can just not be friends with them. Don’t waste your awesomeness on people that don’t deserve you. That’s my motto, anyway. You can just quietly click unfriend or unfollow. Unjerk your social media feeds, if you will.

The same goes for groups and pages that you ‘like’ or belong to on Facebook, online forums you participate in and accounts you follow on Instagram or Twitter.  If you’re scrolling along and you see something that makes you ragey, the unlike/unfollow/leave option is RIGHT there. Sometimes, though, it’s too outrageous to quietly leave, right? Like, you HAVE to say something. The urge is SO STRONG that you simply MUST give in to it. You make The Announcement.

The Announcement.

You know the one I mean. The one where you write a post of some kind, letting the relevant parties (and literally everyone else reading along) that you will be leaving/unliking/unfollowing or whatever.

You imagine yourself as a guest at a dinner party, maybe one hosted by whatever political party is the polar opposite to your personal belief system. You rise from your seat and the room falls silent. All eyes are on you. This is your moment to list all the reasons you are leaving. You drop your truth-bombs, making sure to imply that everyone in the room needs to take a good, hard look at themselves. Then you turn and stride magnificently to the door. The room is silent as you leave, with all the other guests watching you in shamed awe. You exit, being careful not to let the door hit your arse on the way out.

Sometimes, it NEEDS to be said.

The Announcement can be absolutely valid. Maybe whatever this page is has started to share racist posts or blatant homophobia. Maybe they’re using their platform to harass people. If this is the case, and you feel the need, announce away. Will you change any hearts or minds? Maybe. There’s probably a really good chance that you won’t, but stuff like that should be called out. Discrimination, vilification and harassment are not acceptable. If no one ever challenges someone’s shitty behaviour, they might start believing otherwise.

My advice to you (as a seasoned internet debater)  is to make your announcement brief and to the point. If there is ever something that needs to be referred on to another authority, DO THAT. And get the hell out of there. Don’t stay on the page or whatever it is to see the reactions. Resist all temptation to hang around and defend your position. While you’re waiting for a reaction, members are scrambling to be the first to post this image before the pile on starts. Trust me; say your piece and go.

Sometimes, however, it does NOT need to be said.

I’ve been on the receiving end of The Announcement more than once. And more than once, it probably didn’t need to be announced. Most recently, I lost a follower and received The Announcement for being pleased that the next Doctor Who will be portrayed by a woman. Before that, my dire crime was sharing a viral video of a giant serving of nachos. Yes, really. And these senseless announcements did not change my views on Doctor Who. They did nothing to damage my passionate love for nachos, either.

This tendency to make The Announcement over every perceived infraction just makes me feel that perhaps people are unsure about the etiquette of these things. So, here is my take:

Sometimes, you just see a thing you don’t like. It’s not hurting you or anyone else. You just don’t like the thing. Like, this one time, I accidentally followed a seafood restaurant on social media. I don’t like seafood and it kinda creeps me out to see it. Unfollowed! No essay required.

It often is not the dinner party scenario we might think it is in the heat of whatever moment we are having. We aren’t always interrupting the entree course with our blinding insights to help those around us become better people.  It’s more like going to a discount store and announcing loudly that you aren’t buying anything because it’s all cheap crap that you don’t need. The teenager behind the register doesn’t care and, more often than not, neither do your fellow shoppers.

So, the next time you feel the urge to make The Announcement, ask yourself if something truly terrible is going on, or is it just a thing you don’t personally enjoy? Is speaking out going to call attention to something heinous or are you just going to be the strange person offering loud proclamations at the front of your local Two Dollar Shop?


#IBOT @ Capturing Life.

Gifs via Giphy.

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