Imagine your world right now without social media. You wake up in the morning, roll over and grab your phone. But rather than scroll through for the latest gossip and news on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter; you only find a missed alarm notification and perhaps a missed call from a friend abroad; (whose call you probably can’t return because it’s an international call and without WhatsApp or Viber; it would just be too expensive).
Next, you actually get up and go sit in the living room for breakfast; so you can also watch the news on TV while eating. Then you are rewarded with the announcement on CNN that Brexit has indeed come to pass.
How? When? Why? What are people saying about it? How are people being affected already? You realize it might explain the missed call from your British friend in Brussels; who has probably now lost his job. Still, you are not sure how to feel as you are not sure how other people feel about it.
Even more, even if you had an opinion you couldn’t possibly share it directly with the U.K government; or even just share it anyone willing to trade comments with you; as you may have been able to do on Twitter or IG.
You take a glance at your breakfast spread. It looks good so you take a picture…But what is the point? There is no platform to share it on.
Sounds rather dull and dreary, doesn’t it?
Unless you live under a rock, social media has probably become an inseparable part of your existence. Indeed, social media has become the backbone of society’s reputation management as it is continually redefining how society works; especially at its core foundations.
And while there is the argument that social media is of massive benefit to the society; – it has immense potential for increasing knowledge and awareness; as well as developing a society of individuals who can interact, without inhibition; with individuals who occupy positions in the socio-economic hierarchy; – the truth is that this short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created is also ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.
No civil discourse, no cooperation, propaganda, mistruth.
Managing our online appearance now takes precedence over managing our actual self as we are now motivated by short-term gratification; as well as instant validation. Value is now systematically conflated with views and likes- the Social-Validation Feedback Loop. The more society validates your actions with likes and comments, the more you think you’re right.
Truth is systematically confounded with popularity and popularity becomes irrefutable evidence. More, the rise of the “If you don’t share it, it didn’t happen” mentality has reversed the way we behave. Instead of posting what they do, people are seeking to do what they can post; or post what other people will like, and as the pendulum swings; reports continue to surface on the link between social media and feelings of loneliness, depression, jealousy and anxiety.
Some argue that without social media, social, ethical, environmental and political ills would have minimal visibility. Further, they hold that the increased visibility of these issues has shifted the balance of power; indeed, from the hands of a few to the masses. But truth be told, social media is slowly killing real activism and replacing it with ‘slacktivism’.
While social media activism brings an increased awareness about societal issues, is this awareness translating into real change? For all the good it has created with social movements and access to large amounts of information; there is a side of this social media that is slowly extinguishing what it means to be human.
The level of narcissism in our society is at all-time high. In fact, it is the new behavioural norm. Think about it. How many of your “friends” have profile pictures of themselves in perfectly posed photos; showing the “right amount” of cleavage, duck lipped faces, bathroom mirror shots of their six-packs, and so on?
The point is simple. Social media has added a new choice to our lives: reality or virtual? The new routine for your brain is the question: “Is reality stimulating enough? If not: Okay, let me check my phone.”
It has prompted fears that are eating away the fabric of society; helping fake news to spread and turning us all into addicts who barely look up from our smartphone screen. Intellectual independence is rapidly becoming myth. Everything is literally at the click of a button so it is justifiable to lack patience.
And thanks to the endless stream of entertainment, we lack focus, attention, and are too distracted so much; that productivity is hardly the end-goal anymore. Even worse, more people are learning to form and cherish artificial bonds over actual friendships.
Here’s a little challenge for you. Put down the phone or turn off the computer right now then take a walk outside. Stop, take three deep breathes and just take in the scenery – sights and sounds. Allow yourself to appreciate life for what it is and don’t post that feeling anywhere. Then, ask yourself how that feels versus the digital drama we see daily on social media.