The social media dance


Let’s keep it civil!


By Caitlin Kelly

I bet some of you remember life before Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter.

It was a time of  social interaction that was, de facto, personal. We spent time sitting with someone, or walking with them or dancing or fishing. Not sitting at a keyboard and staring into a screen.

So we’re basically talking to total strangers and trusting in their goodwill and intelligence to respond civilly and calmly.

These days, that feels like more of a gamble.

I do see a lot of good thanks to social media.

You, for example!

Knowing that people still find value here — after ten years! — is heartening indeed. I really value the conversations and insights and humor and global perspective you bring.

I enjoy Twitter and have also made new friends from it, meeting them face to face, people I really enjoyed after months of tweets-only.

But a few downsides are increasingly diminishing my pleasure in using social media, and competitiveness is the primary driver.

In my business, of journalism and coaching and writing non-fiction, the LOUDEST voices seem to win, There’s a tremendous amount of chest-thumping, crowing over enormous success. Frankly, even with decades of my own accomplishment, I find it intimidating and exhausting.

I also see, increasingly, a sort of competitive victimhood, with millennials and Gen X vying for the title of whose life is most miserable — and it’s all thanks to those greedy Boomers. (My generation, of course.)

There is no legitimate argument to deny the challenges these two co-horts face. There are many and they intersect: high student debt, low wages, intermittent work, climate change…

I read some of those threads on Twitter, where even the calmest and most reasonable objection or alternate point of view is blocked for being unkind and invalidating — when it’s an alternate view.

I don’t dare mention on Twitter that Boomers like me have weathered three recessions, each of which slowed our careers and damaged our incomes. Then the crash of ’08.


This “lalalalalalalalala I can’t hear you” equivalent online is a disaster.


There’s little point in “connecting” with an enormous global audience, potentially, only to whine and rage and stamp your feet insisting your life is the worst ever.

For you, it is.

I get that.


But until or unless we can cultivate modesty and empathy, compassion and a clear understanding that we each see the world through our own filters of age, race, income, education, political views, sexual preference, gender identity, cultural norms….it’s a dialogue of the deaf.

And here’s a powerful plea about how to better handle other’s bereavement and grief on social media.



19 thoughts on “The social media dance

  1. Oh, you hit upon a struggle I’m having with myself. I love the connections I’ve made via my blog and others’. But I also don’t have the time to be online in these communities all the time. Nor would I want to be. The real world should feed us–and the virtual world enrich, but not take away. That’s the way I see it, at least. How to fit more hours in the day for the good bits . . .

    1. Interesting…

      My blog — according to WordPress — has more than 21,000 followers, which sounds impressive — except that 99% of them are consistently invisible and silent. So why even bother????

      So that’s a real problem for me at this point. I ABSOLUTELY value those make time to “like” and comment but I have so little bandwidth right now for anything in my own life, let alone unpaid work that doesn’t lead to paid work.

  2. I am ambivalent about social media; on the plus side it’s been a great way for people to connect and share ideas and thoughts. On the other, it’s also turning into a litmus test for the human condition – and much of that turns out not to be very nice. And the time-factor is an issue; I am finding less and less time to devote to matters social media because, as a full-time writer, I have obvious other priorities. And yet the onus is on writers today to maintain a profile on social media platforms, despite the disconnect between those and practical income generation. It all comes down to time, I guess; a precious commodity.

    1. For sure.

      I spend a LOT more time these days (sigh) on Twitter than is even healthy…but my big story is finally out January 8 and I really need as many eyeballs on it (and retweets) as possible. I need more work! I need better paid work….and the only way to be visible (versus endless emails and pitches) is that.

      Plus, here now, any agent and publisher’s FIRST question about a book proposal — how big is your social media following? It’s madness because there is no guarantee any of them would buy the books I want to write.

  3. I agree, Caitlin. it still always amazes me, the amount of online brazen rudeness, disrespect, and incivility. I think back aobut people had to send a letter to a paper to air their opinion, sign their name, and be vetted, prior to publication on the op-ed page. one had to behind what they said and believed to be true. with the onset of online papers, I have seen many cruel comments nd attacks on journalists in the comments sections here is a commentary from the Chicago tribune –

    1. It’s tough…

      I am really excited about my healthcare story out this week — and we will be social media-ing to death — but I am also very fearful of trolls attacking me. The main story, 5,000 words, is a fair-minded look at Canadian healthcare; i.e. straight, deep and fair reporting. I also include a short sidebar where I say plainly I believe in its value….I await people telling me to “go back to Canada”, and shouting at me that I’m a socialist.

      1. I suppose you have to look at it from the point of view that you have touched a very real nerve and people will be upset about it. As for the trolls, they have always been out there and just feel more empowered now. I look forward to reading it.

      2. Thanks…I am just REALLY tired of the endless guesswork and propaganda about the Canadian system (which is a number of systems, each provincially run) and how AWFUL it must be. Of course, it has weaknesses but so does this one…and nothing us being done here right now to truly make it better and more affordable.

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