Why I Won't Share My Personal Beliefs on Social Media | Opinion

Just a couple years ago, a midday scroll through Instagram would unleash a barrage of baby photos, not-so-great-looking pictures of food, beautiful portraits of sunsets and—to put it simply—inoffensive, unobtrusive and mindless images taken with sepia and lo-fi filters. Social media in general, and Instagram specifically, used to be my escape from the hustle-and-bustle of the rest of the internet, where virtual fist fights would take place mostly on Reddit and in the comment section of newspapers and blogs.

That is most definitely not the case in 2021.

Browsing through Instagram today amounts to a virtual slap in the face from the hands of political crusaders, influencers and an armada of commentators that take to the platform to shout about their political leanings while sharing their takes on current events.

A disclaimer: The ability to freely post about one's views on a social media platform is a hallmark of the sort of democracy I want to be a part of. Being able to obtain information necessary to form an educated opinion about a topic is at the basis of freedom of speech and I would never argue to take that away from anyone.

And yet, especially during a very odd 2020 defined by folks sitting at home only able to access the outside world virtually, it seems like something shifted. Sharing has officially given way to oversharing, now the modus operandi in America—and I'm not just talking about graduation pictures but an overabundance of political statements that, unfortunately, get lost in the chatter that takes place on crowded online platforms.

To put it simply: Social media posts get diluted and don't speak as loud as actions.

The pattern is a familiar one by now. Something horrific happens in the world and messages—some of solidarity and others accusatory—come to dominate our feeds. From the recent horrendous murders in Atlanta to the trivial virtual argument between Cardi B and Candace Owens, everyone rushed to Instagram to proclaim their views.

Not taking anything away from the importance of speaking up and announcing solidarity with, at least recently, the Asian community, I can't help but wonder whether these posts do more bad than good.

Do they annoy more than help build a better society? What percentage of those who publish their thoughts actually take concrete actions to guarantee similar atrocities won't happen again? How often does a public display of awareness convert to off-platform action ... let alone productive action?

According to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted less than a year ago, "55% of adult social media users say they feel 'worn out' by how many political posts and discussions they see on social media."

Social media
Twitter, TikTok, WhatApp, Instagram, Threads, Snapchat, Facebook, Messenger and Telegram application logos are displayed on the screen of a smartphone. Chesnot/Getty Images

What's even more troubling is that, according to the study, "social media users generally do not find common ground as a result of online discussions about politics." Which is to say: No matter your grammatical and verbal prowess or social media expertise, you won't be changing anybody's mind when discussing current events on Instagram. Followers that agree with your sentiments might feel more connected to you but those whom you disagree with will tend to think your commonalities to be even more scarce than previously assumed.

Of course, the act of sharing thoughts about racially-fueled murders isn't just about convincing others that a change needs to happen but about announcing that you stand alongside a community that needs support. It's about letting that same community know that they can count on you, that you're not like those that don't understand.

And, yet, that train of thought might be the basis of another problem: Are we perhaps sharing loving words to make ourselves feel better about the current world order? Do we claim we've done our part by solely blasting heartfelt, undoubtedly honest messages into the virtual abyss?

After all, as appreciative as I'm sure Asians are when seeing the hashtag #StopAsianHate trend on Twitter, they're probably already aware of the support of those who tend to post solidarity statements. Do they really need to see them on Instagram? Would other acts of assistance be preferred?

As a Jew, although I very much value social media acknowledgements of the rampant anti-Semitism that has taken over our country, I'd prefer to see TV shows dedicated to my community, see more Jewish writers pen novels recognized by the public or even notice the establishment of funds aimed at helping Jews around the United States deal with the atrocities they're confronted with daily. I want more doing and less telling others what to do.

In posting, we persist because that is what humans do. They talk and share as part of their own humanity and social media gives us another outlet to espouse our thoughts—although we're mostly screaming them into the unknown, as everyone seems to be listening via endlessly scrolling but not entirely paying attention.

I am no stranger to the pull of the virtual platform: As a Jewish, 32-year-old immigrant mother who works in media, I've witnessed my fair share of anti-Semitism and I've posted about it, sharing clips the likes of Michel Che's anti-Semitic joke on Saturday Night Live back in February and asking my own followers to boycott the show.

But I try to stay away because ... who am I? I most likely will not change anyone's opinion and—probably most scarily—I run the risk of getting canceled, like anyone who expresses an opinion that is outside the scope of what is now tolerated in the fake libertarian society we've created online. Instead of screaming on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I choose to make some of my online profiles private and urge a different call to action.

I ask you today to donate a few bucks to the Jewish National Fund. After all, that might do more good than a post made public across an oversaturated virtual world of, well, nothingness.

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor. Read more of her work on her website.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.