I should probably avoid social media altogether, given what a cesspit of ugliness it can be sometimes.
Unfortunately, it's provided the simplest way of keeping in touch with dear friends I seldom see, especially during the height of the pandemic (when I kind of wasn't seeing anyone). But to say it amplifies the echo chamber effect is an understatement. Not only do we tend to link on social media to like-minded folks (can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say that they'd unfriended someone solely because of some opinion or another, usually political), but with the few non-like-minded social media friends we have and keep, it takes so much energy to argue that most of us just sigh heavily, shrug our shoulders, and move on, even when confronted with opinions completely antithetical to our own.
Take, for example, what I saw posted yesterday -- a meme saying, "All I'm saying is, if my dog got three rabies shots and then still got rabies, I'd begin to get suspicious." (It took all my willpower not to respond, "Oh, how I wish that was all you were saying.") In any case, not only does the post trumpet zero understanding about how vaccinations and immunity work, it's back to the maddening phenomenon of a layperson thinking an opinion formed from watching Fox News and doing a ten-minute read of some guy's website constitutes "research."
The fact that the social media flocking doesn't mirror the range of opinion out there is heartening, to say the least. "[S]ocial media public opinion is twice removed from the general public opinion measured by surveys," Zhang said. "First, not everyone uses social media. Second, among those who do, only a subset of them actually express opinions on social media. They tend to be strongly opinionated and thus more willing to express their views publicly."
The important point here is that it's easy to see the nastiness and foolishness on social media and conclude that this is the way the majority of the public believes and acts, but the Zhang et al. study suggests that the majority of the opinions of this sort are generated by a few strident people. Only afterward do those posts act like a magnet to the like-minded followers they already had.
So as hard as it is to keep in mind sometimes, I maintain that the majority of people are actually quite nice, and want the same things we want -- safety, security, the basic necessities, health and happiness for our friends and family. The ugly invective from people like the guy who made the "libtard" comment is far from a majority opinion, and shouldn't feed into a despairing sense that everyone is horrible.