I sent out a text message to a friend and all I got back was a smiley face; while it is probably preferable to a “LOL.” I cannot help but feel that we are evolving back to the stone age where our emojis are becoming a form of cave painting in an electronic format. Or maybe I am just getting this all wrong and emojis are a complex form of shorthand. They do say that a picture paints a thousand words; but, how many words does an emoji paint? If that is the case, then I failed in this communication. If I was more technically savvy, I should have sent back hearts or something.
It is no secret as to my feelings about social media. I see it as a medium to turn normal people into bullies; to provide a soapbox to liars.
I have to give the no kill movement credit for turning me against social media. The movement turns animal shelters into battlegrounds when the leaders of that movement encouraged volunteers to turn against the shelters that they volunteered for.
Volunteers are told that they were protected when speaking out against euthanasia as a first amendment right. They are told stories of how volunteers speaking out made the difference. They are told to take control of their shelter. The movement’s intent is to turn animal shelter volunteers into no kill activists.
Most stories of volunteers “getting out of control” begins with the euthanasia of one or more animals. Due to longer holding periods, it becomes more and more critical for animal shelters to provide enrichment programs to keep animals calm. Those programs (like walking the dogs) work on most animals, but some just don’t respond to being caged for long periods of time.
Volunteers bond with the animals while taking dogs for walks. The dogs bond with the volunteers. In rare cases, a dog will only accept the volunteer; while aggressive to others. When a dog becomes aggressive to animal shelter staff, a decision needs to be made concerning the dog. If the decision is to euthanize the dog, the volunteer will not understand and might lash out at the people making that decisions.
In lashing out, the volunteer will garner support from other volunteers and create petitions, create narratives on social media, go to the local media and may even organize protests. Their intent is to demonstrate to shelter management that volunteers should be feared.
The no kill movement has a motto that if you can put enough pressure on a shelter manager, they will leave. If you go through enough managers, eventually you will get one that you like. One who will place animals before people. One who will ignore aggressive warning signs in dogs to adopt them out to families. One who will do everything that he/she is told to do by the volunteers.
It appears that I am not alone. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 57 percent of Americans believe social media sites do more to divide the country and 55 percent said that the sites are more likely to spread lies and falsehoods. The poll said that 61 percent thought that social media did more to spread unfair attacks and rumors against public figures and corporations.
Reading my blog, you may suspect that I hate social media. I do. I believe that our freedom of speech is one of the most abused freedoms granted in our country. Social medial gives people the platform to slander, lie, and defame others. But the worst abuse is not from those writing posts, but from the folks that believe that crap. Social media, quite simply, brings out the worst in people; it brings out the unfiltered part of our psyche; the part that we should keep hidden from the world. I brings out our monster.
Lie + Social Media = New Truth
Watching the news is evidence that people have no filter. We have become a society that cannot discern fact from fiction. Worse, we are more likely to believe a lie than the obvious truth.
Social media provides a mechanism to boost our own self importance. We want to stand out and telling the truth just doesn’t provide the substance to become viral. So, we have to state outlandish things. People will believe them and will further spread the lie and future boost your online importance.
Animal welfare activists saw early on social media’s potential and exploited it. They could get people to believe anything that they said, because we became a society too stupid to discern the lie, even when the truth is so obvious. Social media became the means that our truth was whatever we posted. As others have said, “Social media was dumbing down America.”
People get so upset with foreign countries using social media to influence our elections, because we stupidly believe everything we read. If we could gain back a lick of sense, like we had before social media, we could easily see through the sham. If you want to find the truth, find someone who is not on social media.
We so desperately need to be heard and to be recognized, even if we have nothing to add to the subject. It really gets my goat when I am reading a product review and someone asks a question. To what end do you accomplish when you reply, “I don’t know.” These people cannot stand the silence and need to make noise, just to hear the noise.
Since the onset of social media, staff management has become more difficult. Social media can be so vicious that shelter staff wish to maintain a positive social media presence. Fringe groups will recognize this need for shelter staff to be accepted that they will use social media pressure to turn the staff into warriors for their group.
Prior to hiring new employees, take a look at their social media posts to see if the applicants are more concerned about doing their job, or being social media friendly. It doesn’t hurt to be social media friendly, as long as it does not place the community at risk.
We are a society that likes to complain about everything. For those who complain, we have a way to make things right; even if nothing is wrong. This post is triggered by a new petition on Change.org to redo the last season of Game of Thrones. To be honest, I think this is the only petition on the site that has any merit. As with social media, these sites attract mean people attempting to bully an organization.
The basic premise of a petition website in the animal welfare arena is that it is a place where people can throw tempter tantrums and have an audience that will enable your tantrum. People all over the world have nothing better to do that to sign your petition. As a result, petition websites are the worst aspect of social media.
I have been the subject of petitions and I have learned that to create a petition, you can invent any truth to serve your purpose. People want their fifteen minutes of fame and they can gain it by fabricating some story that might strike a nerve is other people.
People go to the website and the site become like a black hole in which the intelligence of the readers are sucked out of them and they will sign their name to any or all of them. Many of the petitions are scams, but if you get enough signatures, they take on reality. It is this reality that we constantly face in animal welfare. In stead of working to solve your community’s problems they decide to armchair quarterback from the comfort of their home computer.
You can do all of the good in the world, only to offend one person and have the entire “change community” shoved down your throat. There is no forgiveness in our business.
What good will changing the final season of Game of Thrones do after that season has so firmly been burned into our heads? I am a strong advocate for change, but let’s be active participants in stead of being those mean folks who become keyboard activists. But if you cannot find yourself climbing up from you keyboard, then at least make sure your claims are righteous. Find the truth, don’t invent it.
Two things that petition sites prove is that some people will believe anything and that they will want to sign their names to it.
Although Petition Sites have no requirement for the poster to be factual, erroneous information follows the “postee” throughout their career. Many jurisdictions will want “clean” applicants for leadership positions and would prefer to have someone without any experience, than to deal with an experienced person who has incurred damaging social media exposure.
If you are doing your job correctly in protecting the public, you will always have this threat hanging over your head because the most common use of petition sites is to attack animal shelter employees for euthanizing aggressive dogs.