I’ve scaled back on posting on my personal social media accounts for about a year now. Being online on those platforms isn’t as fun as it used to be. When I joined them, they were a place to share things with close friends and family. Over the years, the platforms became more than that. A place to connect with other advocates, to share resources, and to keep updated with legislation and politics, those websites were a lifeline for me. Available 24 hours every day, I loved being connected to so many people across the world.
Lots has changed since I joined Facebook back in the mid-2000s. The games and apps, like the Flair Board, were simple yet creative ways to pass the time. Over time, I saw the platform turn into an interactive and useful message board. People became more involved and invested in their online voice. Groups, communities and followings shaped what I did both on and offline. Connecting people from so many places, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were truly a great concept. But the more people spoke up about their passions, the more silenced their voices were.
Fact checkers took the fun out of social media, including on FB. When they came out in full force, I’d still want to share funny things my kids say on my page and post silly memes hoping to make people laugh. But long gone is the desire to use my account as a means to share personal stories or to use it as a virtual soapbox like I had been doing for years.
Not that I shared anything inaccurate, but I got a warning just a few weeks ago from Facebook that a link I’d posted wasn’t completely true (according to their standards). I supposedly had taken some news out of context. In reality, what I’d shared didn’t fit their agenda. That wasn’t the first time I’d been told to watch what I posted. As the creator of our Age of Autism Pinterest page, I was permanently banned from using that platform in 2019. I was never a big fan of their setup, but their message was very clear–posting vaccine truths will get you deleted.
In the beginning on other sites, people would just get a slap on the wrist like the one I had received on FB. An opaque overlay would cover the information a user shared. Some Fact Checkers went a step further and added several links at the bottom of the opaque overlay that countered the poster’s original message.
Rarely would I ever click on the links when I saw them on my friends’ posts. It’s a fact that for every study or article a friend might share, another study or article could say the exact opposite. Those policing social media platforms still wished we’d stop thinking for ourselves entirely and stepped up their game. Besides making it harder to read what others shared, people would lose the ability to log in for a certain amount of time. I’ve yet to be put in it, but friends have done 1-, 3-, 7- and even 30-day stints in FB jail. Others get the boot completely like what happened to us on Pinterest. Without warning, accounts and pages are deleted altogether. Some people are calling it quits themselves. No longer willing to play the cat-and-mouse game, they want nothing to do with the censorship the social media giants are encouraging.