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From Hearth to Hatred and Back Again

Cultivating a happier social media experience

By Robert AllenPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

The late cattle rancher, Grateful Dead lyricist, and author of The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace said of the internet in its early days that he envisioned the world wide web becoming the new "hearth" of the twenty-first century. Families all over the world would be gathered in front of the soft glow of their computer screens, they would be linked to others around the globe, able to share their stories and photographs resulting in a greater understanding and appreciation for one another.

Twenty years or so later the author and actor Stephen Fry would delete his Twitter account largely due to the toxicity that oozes from much of social media.

And yes, those "horrible people in your community" that this article's accompanying picture refers to, I too am one of them, at least I am sometimes, and now more than ever it seems that I am making a sincere attempt at doing something about that.

Less News is Good News

First, I have either “snoozed” or have completely unfollowed all but four news sources. I have kept the NYT, The Chicago Tribune, a Norwegian paper called Dagbladet, and then an outlet out of the Missouri Ozarks. And that is it, how much news does one really need, or rather, how much news do I really need? Could some of my knee jerk reactions and nastiness be attributed to the never ending stream of negativity and overall bad news?

Cesspool Comment Sections

Second, I have steered clear - or at least I am trying to steer clear of the comment sections of any sort of controversial story or post. I mean really, going into the comment sections these days is like willingly going for a swim at a sewage plant. Reading the thoughts of mean spirited types most certainly does not bring out the best in me. So, I've stopped reading the random thoughts of complete strangers as my own thoughts are enough to keep me busy. Sure, there are occasions where a good discussion is in order, but unless it is about a shared interest in something joyful or fascinating, I don't have time for it anymore.

Healthy cultivation of our timelines is key. You would not encourage or allow people who upset you to knock on your front door, pull up a seat at your dinner table, or lean in for conversation about your most private matters, so why, when we spend so much time on social media do we not avoid these people?

Picking Battles Wisely

Of course there are important issues worthy of our attention and they often require public discourse. Social media is a great bullhorn and it can bring about awareness, can be effective at raising funds, collecting signatures and reaching intelligent and serious minded people who could be potential allies. But what happens when our timelines are highlight-reels of anger, disappointment and despair? Of course I would like to think that I am on the right side of social issues and that my politics lean towards those that would make a better society, but doesn’t everyone see themselves in such a light? What I have found to be important is that I remember that wading into the comment section to engage in hostility benefits no one, especially me.

Where did this idea come from, the idea that our social media feeds were arenas we had to prepare for battle before using?

One thing I have started doing alongside the purging of my timeline of the perpetual newscycle is I've begun removing people that I have no real connection with. A couple of years ago I had a public Facebook profile with well over a thousand individuals on my friends list. A couple of hundred of those "friends'' had faceless profiles and used names that clearly were not their own. I don't recall seeing any of those people ever supporting my writing through a purchase or even the sharing of a post. What I did notice is that they enjoyed a specific type of drama and were not afraid to enter a thread and insult people who I do know in real life and whether or not there was an argument going on at the time is besides the point. So again, why would I allow these strangers into my life?

Facebook has become more enjoyable by simply limiting the number of people I interact with.


Show me your pets! Let me take a look at those flea ridden creatures.


Your Memes, give them to me! I'm not easily shaken nor am I prudish so the more outlandish the better. Yes, the humor of these things can be sophomoric and quite dark, but I find that laughter is far better than tears.


Those unfortunate children of yours? Share with me their milestones and the things about them that make you beam with pride. Hell, share with me the rough times too, now that I am a parent I can sympathize.

What's for Dinner?

It is my belief that we can share pictures of our food without feeling ashamed. I enjoy seeing what people are cooking and sometimes I even am inspired to try my hand in the kitchen.


So, here we are. John Perry Barlow's vision of the 21st century's “hearth” is alive and well, at least in my home it is. And Stephen Fry has rejoined Twitter, and Twitter is a better place for that in my opinion. Hope springs eternal and I hope your timelines as well as mine bring us more joy than sorrow and provoke more thought about the things we enjoy rather than more anger about the things we detest.

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About the Creator

Robert Allen

Mediocre author, amateur photographer and stay at home father.

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