As the suddenly bustling treadmill scene at the gym can attest, New Year’s resolutions are powerful motivators. (At least for the first week or so.) There are plenty of important things you can set your mind to in the year ahead – quitting smoking, starting a book club, hiring me for writing assignments, whatever. But since so many in my generation conduct their lives via social media, I thought it would be a good time to suggest a few resolutions that could help you live a better, fuller cyber-life. Or at least, trim down on annoying habits that clog my Facebook news feed. In return, my resolution will be to be slightly less of an acerbic smartass.* Deal? Deal.
START confirming your sources. Social media has become a fantastic tool to find breaking news – and an easy way to spread misinformation like wildfire. So please, take a brief pause when you’re next tempted to share that Morgan Freeman tweeted something wise-yet-sassy in support of gay marriage, or to upload that (digitally altered, maybe?) yearbook photo of Mitt Romney mocking The Homos. It only takes a quick Google to confirm that an esteemed 75-year old actor is (surprise!) not tooling around on Twitter, or that said photos are fakes from a Vanity Fair article clearly filed under, “Humor.” (Can you believe it? Your cousin’s roommate’s best friend in Nebraska actually did not scoop CNN!) Spreading false info: file under, “not funny.”
STOP posting your Grindr conversations. Aw. That iPhone chat between you and HardBosGuy is truly uproarious. (He wants to “tickle your tonsils with his throbbing member”? LMAO!) But can you please not take a screenshot and share your totally adorably hilarious adventures in cyber cruising with everybody on your friends list? It’s bad enough that Facebook feeds are full of people posting glamour shots of their dinner plate; it’s seriously TMI to know what you’re eating for dinner. So let’s put the “anonymous” back in “anonymous online sex.” (And, given that it’s 2013 and unlike prior generations, you have the privilege of safely meeting people in real life – maybe put just a smidge of “embarrassment” back in it, too.)
START taking activism offline. I’m not of the popular opinion - popular every November, anyway - that politics “don’t belong” on social media. (Oh, I’m sorry. Was my post about issues affecting national security interfering with your much more important conversationabout what happened tonight on Homeland?) That said, let’s remember that there’s a limit to the medium’s power; and if your political philosophies can be fully articulated in 140-character tweets, you might want to learn the six-character notion of “nuance.” Have real conversations. Avoid making assumptions about a person’s character based on passing glimpses of their political views. (Would you make such sweeping generalizations about them if you were debating at the dinner table?) And channel your cyber-steam over the hot topic du jour into real world activism: volunteer with a community organization, fundraise for an important cause, write a letter to a politician, or just educate yourself better on the issue at hand.
STOP hashtagging your outfits. Social media performs an important public service of allowing us all to indulge our inner narcissist. (I’m only being half-sarcastic. I’m a really big fan of my inner narcissist.) However, unless it’s part of your self-branding efforts as a legitimate (translation: people pay you for your skill) fashion expert, “selfie” photos outlining the year, make, and model of every piece in your ensemble are self-involved in a not-even-entertaining way. It’s a flagrant, brazen example of that time-honored nouveau riche faux pas: gratuitous brand name-dropping. (You’ll notice no one is rushing to hashtag an outfit assembled off an H&M clearance rack.) And it’s also awfully presumptuous of you to suggest that I even like your taste. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that, actually. (If only because I weigh too much and probably couldn’t afford it. But that’s irrelevant.) Let’s make #IAmWearing become totally #LastSeason.
START the fan war healing process. Madonna or Lady Gaga? It’s a contentious inter-generational debate, and social media is the main battleground. You see Twitter campaigns to trend bitchy hashtags like #RIPMadonna and #GagaisReductive. The comment sections of entertainment news stories swarm with trolls tallying record sales figures and tour income to declare a “winning” pop queen. (If only success was so easily quantifiable.) And whenever one releases new music - as Gaga will in 2013 with the her upcoming album ARTPOP – you can rest assured there will be Facebook flaming about who is the bigger, better, more awesome-r gay icon. Everybody chill, and recognize the media-generated catfight for what it is: for one thing, ageist. (The anti-Madonna screed can basically be boiled down to, “Women are useless unless they’re young.”) And sexist, too. Only with women would society suggest that there somehow isn’t room for (gasp!) two powerful, innovative pop artists. (When Justin Timberlake and Usher started riffing Michael Jackson’s every vocal trill and dance move, we neither diminished the older icon’s legacy nor derided the youngsters as talent-less hacks. We acknowledged the older artist’s trailblazing influence, saluted everybody, and moved on.) Love who you love and lay down your arms. But uh, you first.
(*For the first week or so.)