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Neglecting real world for digital one

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POSTED January 12, 2018 1:06 a.m.

Is social media ruining America?
This may seem like an outlandish question to ponder, but all evidence that I’ve seen lately – just here on a local level – points towards the time-killing sites we all like to visit causing more harm than good.
For example, a conversation that I had with an administrator at a local high school Thursday morning – at an event that was necessary in no small part to the role that social media plays in the younger demographic – focused heavily on how hard it is for teachers and administrators to get a handle on things once they hit the bandwidth. Things have gotten so bad, I was told, that there have been discussions about a potential district-wide social media policy to try and rein things in so they don’t get any more out of control.
As we all know, a public back-and-forth on Twitter in the week leading up to the annual Manteca vs. East Union rivalry game led to the Manteca captains not shaking the hands of their opponents, and the interwebs losing their collective minds as a result.
Pointing out the two-way nature of what transpired led one person to publicly call for my job on the Bulletin’s Facebook page because he didn’t like what I had to say.
I must have missed that part of the First Amendment.   
Jokes aside, it just seems far too easy for people who will never meet one another to hide behind QWERTY keyboards and say things that they would never say to another human being if they were standing right in front of them.
And even though social media makes us more “connected,” just what is the quality of that connection and is it a suitable replacement for the personal relationships and friendships that we sacrifice by moving out identity into the cloud?
I’m guilty of it as much as anybody – when I have lunch with friends, my phone is never out of eyesight or reach as I monitor everything that is going on in the world of local politics and public opinion. With somebody I care about sitting just feet from me, it has become so engrained to constantly check for updates and reply when necessary that I don’t even notice I’m neglecting the real-life interactions around me.
This week it was announced that the California State Teachers Retirement System and a leading mutual fund are putting pressure on Apple to take a closer look at how their products affect young people. I guess you can put that kind of pressure on a behemoth of a company when you own billions in their stock.
But maybe it’s time that other companies start taking a look at those things as well?

The recall effort born on Facebook
In keeping with the general theme of the column this week, I saw that a group of concerned Stockton residents have launched a recall effort against their Mayor, Michael Tubbs, for a variety of infractions that they feel warrant his removal from office.
It’s interesting to point out that a lot of these people, from what I have observed, have been deadest against him from his first day in office because their allegiance is with the former mayor – who may or may not still be wearing an ankle bracelet for allegedly stealing money from kids to bolster his own lavish lifestyle.
So when I see these people referring to “King” Tubbs I can’t help but notice the irony in that statement, and how no matter how smug he may come off to some of his constituents, at least he never took money from poor kids so he could spend it at Costco and casinos.
Maybe that’s just me though.
But it appears that the movement of people that organized against him was born on a Facebook group, and that the fervor seemed to grow absent a whole lot of facts about things that he had actually done.
You know, hating somebody just because other people hate him.
For example, the recent decision by the council to move ahead with the Advance Peace program – also known not so flatteringly as the “cash for criminals” program – was immediately a rallying point for these detractors who couldn’t understand how the program could possibly work.
Misinformation was rampant. You might as well have thought that they were taking money away from schools – this was actually inferred – to pay gangbangers not to kill people.
And suddenly, everybody became an expert on statistics and facts despite nobody actually living in the areas in which this program was first implemented.
In short – because he proposed it, just like with everything he proposed, they didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
Not to get too far in the weeds, but I had somebody tell me that the $1 million that was being spent by the council for the non-stipend related expenses associated with the program wasn’t worth the value of a regular human life that may be saved if it is any way successful. Unless, she said, it was one of her own family members – then maybe it would be worth a million dollars.
See how the herd mentality strips people of human decency and reduces everybody to something abstract instead of real?
The gap of disconnection between the people who make decisions and those who judge them for it is getting wider and wider now that we don’t even have to leave the house to view a city council meeting. And when those who are elected to make decisions have their physical safety threatened for doing what 70 percent of the voters asked them to do – and then people on Facebook perpetuate the atmosphere that led to the threats in the first place – it’s a wonder why anybody would ever want to go into public service.
Ultimately, I put the chances of that ideology spreading to Manteca at around zero percent since it will take actually driving somewhere and engaging with those elected officials and that would take a lot of the herd mentality off the table.
Why somebody is against trying something drastic that could end up saving the lives of innocent children who have been in the crossfire of Stockton’s violence is baffling to me.
Here’s to hoping that effort stays within its own self-contained thought bubble.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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