Social Media: Targeted Audiences

So if I go into my social media ad settings of Facebook I can see my account identifies me as a liberal. It is right there hidden away in your account settings, somewhere under ad preferences they tell you what the service sees you as and thus I guess it tries to help me be in groups of which I share values from. So I am a liberal?

I can live with that.

I also agree, yes, I am more liberal than most.

No problem.

Is that why I see so many attack ads and divisive wedge issue ads directed towards liberal audiences? I don't know much about online social media ads, but I can probably assume that is a safe bet. I just spent four entire days blocking every one of them because I was so sick of the constant stream of hate being poured into my news stream, so you know, I hate being labeled and targeted by those seeking to inflame liberal passions, like myself.

And I wonder if I were labeled as another affiliation, would what I see be different? The other side, seeing a constant stream of conservative blood pressure spiking posts of discord and anger?

It makes me wonder.

If I believe in working together, none of those posts are for me. I watch them and all I feel is disgust and hate for the other side. And that is not me. Not who I am. Not what I believe. If you call the other side bigots, brain-damaged, killers, rapists, and racists just because you are not getting what you want? Then you need to take a hard look inside your heart.

Love your enemies and help them to come and understand. You may not get what you want in this life, but I believe in a better tomorrow. You are not going to get anywhere you want to go by driving people apart. Bring people together. The right and good way shall prevail, maybe not in this generation, but maybe in the next and I shall work towards that goal. All people want peace, love, understanding, and opportunity.

But that is just me. Silly stupid liberal beliefs I know.

What we were, not what we have become.

I actually want to use the system to you know, connect with people, see some cat photos, discuss writing, sell a book or two to those interested, let people know about my review site, and generally share some slice of life moments.

I have gotten the beast under control with four days of post cleanup, finally, but like some acute medical condition, a hate-filled political attack ad pops up in my news stream every once and a while and I ban the damn thing. I ban the chimera-like organization behind it, I banish them forever from ever posting to my news feed, and I wait for the group behind it to change their name and post the same damn thing again so I can quash the next hateful post into my news stream like an unwanted cockroach on my kitchen table.

It feels like anyone with an open checkbook, be it a political activist group, some divisive agenda wedge group, or any foreign power wishing to stir up trouble can go in, pick a country, pick a group of voters to target, and start throwing firebombs into people's news feeds. Oh, and don't forget those on the edges of these fights wishing to make a buck or two off the chaos, the late night shows, the actors and activists, the Youtube personalities, news pundits, political comedians, conspiracy theorists, and purveyors of fake news around the world.

Everyone dances around the bonfire and tosses kindling into the blaze. I mean, even things mildly upsetting and advocating one side or the other are tossed in there as something to burn, just look at the comments. For good or bad. To enjoy the warm toasty feel or maybe a malicious firework or can full of gas lobbed in to cause damage to those standing around. You know, you paid your admission fee so do what you want.

Is this how it works?

I hope not. I pray not.

Because if it is, I am feeling both used and disgusted right now. And a bit scared.

If there was ever a Stephen King book about an idealistic Maine town where Democrats and Republicans got along, played baseball together, sat down at each other's tables, talked through differences, and generally lived the American Dream...before the evil demon spawned by hate-filled advertising showed up and made them all so angry they started killing each other...this is where I feel the social media world is at.

And I only realized this by blocking the hate coming from the side from which I identify. It was hard because in many causes I actually found reasons to agree, and I felt like I was betraying my beliefs. I did this as an experiment really, I got so sick of social media that I decided last week to block out all the hate coming from my side, to focus the service just on friends and writers, and somehow battle back the horde of demons and make the service a bit more useful to me.

Otherwise? I was going to quit. Screw this. If I want liberal outrage I will just turn on CNN or MSNBC and zone out on the couch. If I feel like the other side I will watch Fox News.

I go online to escape that and connect with people. Or at least I used to.

At this point, I felt the service had outlived its usefulness. It was all things which upset me. Every second post was a political attack ad or something so nasty it made my stomach turn in the way it was presented. Even if I agreed with the premise, the goal of these ads were often to incite rage and hatred for the other side, and I just read the comments below like some devil had taken over people's minds and they started spewing forth the most evil, wicked, and mean bile that I could ever imagine.

Not for me.

I don't want to be associated  with this. friends? I felt like I did not know some of these people anymore. Even if I agreed with them I did not know them anymore. I got this strange sense of isolation that the group from which I identified with and believe in the causes of was one which I could not speak my mind in, because I felt even speaking of tolerance and finding things to agree upon and work together on would be seen as selling out, giving the other side what it wants, and it would open myself up as a target.

On my own side of the fence.

So I sat in silence as the violent mob took over discussion, and in a way I am still that way. I am not going to be a force of moderation, reason, and wisdom; not in that place, not in that world. I get this dread feeling that the hatred spreading in the social media world has already led to shootings, violent street mobs, and all sorts of other events which I have never seen before in my lifetime. Not to this level. Not to this degree of hatred for the other side.

So I blocked it all out.

And Facebook became useful to me again.

Oh, I felt this strange sense of guilt doing it, but at least I was happy.

I shared happy posts and cute things. I created a new group for writers. I started commenting in people's posts again. My participation level went up. I felt the need to log back in every once and a while and check up on friends. You know, how things used to be? Happy-book, not Hate-book.

But the hate is never gone. It runs underneath this service like a black river of darkness under the fake green lawn of peace and togetherness which I laid upon this place. It is never truly gone.

Every so often, I see a new political group with a slightly changed name tossing another firebomb in my feed, so I block them forever. From my side, mind you, not the others which we now call 'the enemy.' I see friends share a lit torch of hate in my news-feed, so I sleep them for 30 days. I am going to have a whole lot of mess in 30 days when these accounts reappear in my news feed, so I may just end up unfriending these people all together, for they seem lost to me.

Not no longer my friend, but just people so consumed with negative thoughts I don't want them to be in my circles anymore. I feel bad about this. It is like cutting off a part of myself that I don't want to let go. They will come back, share more hate they probably have no idea what they are doing or where it came from, and I really feel more sorry for them than I do any animosity. They don't know. They are just caught up in this.

I cannot blame them.

Otherwise what? I am back to the point of quitting altogether again. I am trying here. I get no help from any social media service. I have had a label placed upon me and I feel I am being targeted by those with an agenda to divide and destroy the other side.

I feel used.

And I call these posts firebombs, but other people may say they are valid ads that raise awareness. Two sides. Gun control. Immigration. You name it and there are two sides that have valid points of view, but all I see are wars brought to the platform with little or no value in progressing the discussion. There are no discussions in the comments sections of these posts, they are all either one-sided rants of confirmation bias or pure all out brawls.

A thoughtful discussion? In a comment thread of a one-sided advocacy post? Are you kidding me?

What value do they bring to the platform other than fights?

And if I sit there and preach working together and moderation I feel I become the enemy of my own side. And it is not like I am changing sides here, for I still believe in the old-time liberal ideals. Freedom of speech. Free thoughts. Equality. Opportunity. Sexual expression. Open minds and open hearts. But more so, the freedom to choose what we see and who we share it with.

If Facebook and other social media sites dropped all of their political ads, social awareness ads, campaign ads, and only advertised products and the things you see on television commercials, like cars, vacations, tv shows, games, and laundry soap? I would feel this would be the greatest thing ever.

If they put in place ratings on posts and had age controls on who could elect to see what? Like, someone could post an artsy topless Playboy picture or erotic novel and only the people who opted in could see or share this? That you could make choices on what you shared and saw, and the system grew up a little with its users? That somehow the posting dungeon for posting something risque was relegated to the dark ages?

Second greatest thing ever.

I don't want to damn social media and leave it forever.

What I want is for them to admit the service they built is out of touch and the entire system is out of control. All of the above? It is a symptom of a larger problem here. They need a major course change. Today. Now. Grab a bullhorn and stand on a desk, things need to be changed. They need to suspend all advertising now and figure this out. They need to let users make choices on what these users want to see, to put in age controls and filters to stop treating everyone like children, and not try to "be" a new society that is somehow controls and shapes political opinion.

Because that is not what I want.

I want my old Facebook and social media back.


And I don't want to have to hide Hate-book underneath and pretend like it doesn't exist, because for all of my friends and other people I associate with? That negative, hate-filled place is their world.

I get this feeling that every day they live as targeted audiences.