“Sipping tea” during a feeding frenzy

Social media is a wonderful, terrible thing that makes me think of the lukewarm Gulf Coast waters. It’s relaxing to float along, bobbing up and down on the gentle waves of trend and opinion. Puppies, slow-motion cookery, and homecomings. Birthdays, graduations, and dad jokes. Photos of friends and witty memes without misspellings: these are the things that keep me scrolling along.

That undertow, though. It will suck me out into a sea of political flotsam and jetsam faster than I can down a Bushwhacker in a heat wave. I try to swim parallel to the beach. That’s how you get out of an undertow, but I’m here to tell you that the water out there is lousy with sharks. Some people appear to derive great pleasure from baiting, shocking, or outright attacking others. They troll newsfeeds sniffing for blood or conviction.

I’m not going to bore you with my brand of politics, religion, or the like. I actually enjoy looking at issues from a variety of perspectives as long as the discourse is at least civil. It’s when people start throwing political haymakers that I have to draw a line. Whatever side of a topic you espouse is your business. It does not, however, make me an idiot if I don’t tow your line.

I also do not have to celebrate or even validate your opinion, your lifestyle, your faith (or lack thereof), or whether you prefer your peanut butter crunchy or smooth in order to be your “friend”. Nor do you mine. That doesn’t make either one of us less or more. There’s a distinct difference between snark and shark. We must agree to respect that delineation if we are to remain connected on our journey through the choppy waters of the worldwide web, at least on my feed.

I’ll bet history will see the social media boom as our century’s Gutenburg moment. There is so much potential for good that can come from expanding our capacity to network. We can’t go about it like a petulant 13 year old demanding respect by virtue of having a voice, though, especially when that voice is little more than a parrot or crow.

For all you cherrypickers, either/or-ers, F-bombers (like that lends credence to your opinion), hashtaggers, amateur fact-checkers, and meme politickers out there, understand that there’s always, always a bigger shark trolling the waters. Swim at your own risk…or scroll on along.

The choice is yours.

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