Social media are so bad for us, but we just can’t stay away. In 2020, this has once more become clear through plenty of events. Whether it’s a worldwide pandemic, ingrained racism or grand elections, there’s so much happening on social media, and so much of it has gone very far south. This video reminded me once again about some of the causes behind this.
Can social media still provide something good?
“Helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Apparently that’s Facebook’s slogan. In hindsight, I think almost everyone now realizes that’s most definitely not what this platform and many social media do.
Even though this video of Vox is basically ancient in internet age, the points they make have only become more relevant. The cycle still exists – anonymity, division and extremism still propel most discussions on platforms. It made me realize a very important thing that I’ve always been missing on social media: the middle ground has no place online.
And it was the death of common sense
Pragmatism is a keyword in my life, something that I adhere to online and offline. That’s why I’ve never been really that interested in the community aspect of social media. It most definitely has to do with my own insecurities, but I prefer to pretend I’m special and not like others. So I remember when social media became popular during high school, I found it really silly that everyone was just doing the same things they did as usual, but suddenly got likes and attention. In my head, the word selfie was still reserved for the weird kind of people that took photos of themselves for no reason whatsoever.
How much has changed since I was in highschool. Oxford Dictionaries crowned selfie word of the year in 2013, saying that “the word has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph”. This development has led to many articles calling millennials narcissistic and prone to oversharing. I also really agree with something else mentioned in this article: “All of us adopt different personas that we can use in different contexts. Social media is where we become the people we want to be. It’s a grand stage, and we’re all actors playing different roles. There, we stand out. There, we are the stars of our own shows.” In the end, we’re all humans. We just want to see and appreciate the show, escapism doesn’t use common sense.
But I miss common sense, now more than ever. It’s the reason why I’ve never been really involved in any fandom, even though I am a big fan of anime and kpop, both known for their avid fan communities. I’ve always wanted to present myself as a rational and pragmatic individual, which completes the loop of me not posting much on social media. At the same time, many people in my social feeds clearly believe and actively voice their opinions and beliefs. It all seems awfully dramatic to me.
Escape is futile. The search for a connection is real
In the end, although I may think like that, it doesn’t mean at all that I’m above it. The desire for attention and fame is something I vaguely pursue, even though I know it wouldn’t make me happy at all. I write snarky blogs and comments because the opposite of actively voicing your beliefs is just making quips and only being half-serious about everything. And it’s working against me. I see all these memes passing by on social media that speak more to me than I’d like to admit. And they’re rote. And not funny.
“To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to ‘secretly flee’ (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.”
That’s exactly how I feel, and learning more about the mechanisms behind social media doesn’t make it any easier. I feel there won’t ever be a real stage for common sense, because it would be boring. And so much of our lives already is, we don’t need anymore of it.
On the other hand, there must be more people who feel like this. If the internet teaches one thing, it’s that you’re never alone in your opinions and feelings. Social media platforms have been focusing more on one-on-one conversations and connections as well. And it’s something I’ve found a renewed joy in as well. Especially during these times, nothing is more fun than ironically using #blessed on our real-life, in not #blessed-worthy situations.
It’s something very paradoxical in these times of digital communication, to look for a real connection.
|Social media is a disease. And it’s spreading|
Do we follow the media or does the media follow us?
Post avocado on toast
Why we should probably post avocado on toast instead of our opinions
"We're just f&*$ing monkeys in shoes." - Tim Minchin
That quote is a great reminder of our own limitations and insignificance. And it’s an important factor in acknowledging that we are flawed beings. We let emotional triggers lead us to what content we look at and react to. We may spread the wrong ideas based on those triggers, even forcing others to be on our side. Before you know it, you may be spiralling down the rabbit hole of misinformation, or content stretched so far out of context, you can’t even remember what you’re mad about. Remember when we just shared our boring lives to Facebook?
Social media is a disease. And it’s spreading
Recently, I, along with the rest of the world, have been following the Black Lives Matter movement very closely. I usually try to not get too engaged in social media outbreaks of breaking news, but a personal experience can quickly become a trigger for emotional involvement. Whatever my initial intent was for looking more into what was happening in the U.S. and the rest of the world, turned into shock really fast. I became overwhelmed by the outrage and the completely irrelevant (I suppose that’s a personal opinion) media coverage of it. There was no main narrative to be found.
It reminded me of the telephone game: a sentence is whispered into a person’s ear, who then has to whisper it to the next person etc. By the time it reaches the last person in the group, the sentence is no longer coherent and its meaning is lost completely. What started with the death of one man, sparked global unrest; first on behalf of the U.S., then on behalf of other minority groups, and by the time it reached the rest of the world, every individual on the planet had something to say. But it was no longer about George Floyd and BLM, nor was it focusing on racism. It was about peer pressure and not enough engagement from social media influencers. It was about “white guilt.” It was about shunning an artist who once wrote a song containing a racial slur. It was about looting. It was about people’s fashion choices during the protests. It was about anti-racists blaming other anti-racists for being racist:
- “Blackout Tuesday is about taking a step back and educating yourself on racism in the United States.”
- “NO, Blackout Tuesday is about silencing the Black Lives Matter movement, it is evil!”
- “NO, Blackout Tuesday is about standing in solidarity with current events!” You are RACIST for using Blackout Tuesday!”
- “YOU are racist for NOT using Blackout Tuesday.”……..
Do we follow the media or does the media follow us?
How do we disseminate the right content and distinguish right from wrong within a media landscape in which journalists have so much responsibility to maintain the status quo? How do we keep pointing focus towards the main narrative (and is the main narrative even good)? The problem with involving social media, regular news platforms, and literally everyone who has a voice (Vox Pop), causes problems for conveying “truth.” An excerpt from the book Rethinking Journalism reads:
"They (journalists) have to be socially responsible as well as attractive for the public. They have to speak and to listen, to laugh and to cry, be independent and neutral, be involved and take sides - and while doing all of that, uphold their professional values of reliable news gathering, and accurate interpretation."
Including the voice of regular citizens to regain people’s trust in the media has increased significantly, but how does that weigh against staying objective? Do we follow the media or does the media follow us? And within that endless cycle, within all of these voices, what is still real? how do we know what’s really important if that is our only reference?
Social media is the intruder that created a blurred line between private and public, and news platforms and social media are not working together in harmony. Everyone can be outraged, or political. We can share fake news, influence others, create a divide between groups believing in different (or the same) ideologies, we can share our wisdom, our hurt, our anger, and all of this can enter mainstream news on a global scale, changing minds, confronting us with new evidence continuously, and spreading information from many different angles on a minute to minute basis.
"Water? What the hell is water?" - The Fish
I can keep talking about how faulty our current media landscape is regarding the spread of information, but it probably won’t change anytime soon (and maybe it shouldn’t, if we don’t want to challenge freedom of speech). So why don’t we look at us for a moment. What are we doing wrong? How can we teach ourselves to post “better” content? I post opinions myself (like this blog). I get triggered too. It’s not always wrong, but it can potentially be harmful:
David Foster Wallace‘s story of two young fish swimming in water, not knowing the meaning of water, is (to me) a message of truth and solipsism within our media landscape. Our automated response is one of self-centeredness and using our own lens to interpret other people’s experiences. This makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction, making actual realities hard to discover. It’s often due to a lack of awareness, in this case overshadowed by our own emotions and an overload of opinions. Apart from that, social media presents us with continuous threats. The area in the brain that processes memory “continuously compares the external world to the brain’s core belief of how the world should be. (…) When there is a discrepancy between the external world and the brain’s core belief, a threat occurs.” And that’s triggering.
Post avocado on toast
Core principles of journalism are truth and accuracy (fact-checking), independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability. It is my humble opinion that, if we want to have our say and spread a message, we need to try and uphold those principles as much as possible, alongside journalists. Being aware of your beliefs and those of others, and attempting to use your emotions constructively, instead of letting news ignite your fight or flight response and/or retaliation.
If you’re triggered and you must post at all cost, look at multiple sources, look at the message behind whatever triggered you, and try to create something that can help the narrative along its pathway to more awareness. We need to be more empathic. We need to be more aware. If we can’t do that, maybe limit social media to more basic functions: Talk to a friend. Post avocado on toast.
"It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: This is water. This is water."