Social media. It is quite an odd term given to this global phenomenon, given that it rarely has any of the features or benefits of being ‘social’. Perhaps it is that I come from a very different time or generation, that predates the computer age and all it’s current trappings, that I remember a time when being social was very different as it is now.
Being social 30 years ago required that you arranged a meeting time and place with your friends and loved ones, you spent time together, interacted, shared and responded in very human and respectful ways. It would often become the memories that you cherished later in life.
I was no different to the rest of the world when I jumped on the social media wagon and dived in with curious hope of connecting to people in ways i had never experienced before. And it was certainly a different experience indeed.
I noticed some of the benefits of being able to ‘connect’ to people all over the world and people I would not have otherwise ‘met’. As a chronically Ill person it had many advantages for me as I was often unable to ‘meet with’ or ‘visit’ the people I loved and related to. It was a very powerful tool for those who had been isolated, alone, hurting and cut off from the rest of the world.
Until things started changing…
I started seeing some very disturbing and strange things growing from within social media, things that I haven’t been enjoying or benefitting from. Here are some of those things. 1. It became a new arena for competing with others and looking down on others. 2. It is a very manipulative tool which only shows the things that people WANT you to see or believe. 3. It has become a very powerful marketing tool with a captive audience and many ways to sell products and ideas. 4. Anyone with a keyboard became overnight experts, commentators, activists and moral adjudicators.
People have been looking to social media for validation of themselves instead of looking within themselves. It has become the case that if we couldn’t be happy or successful than at least we could be popular and liked. Likes and clicks replaced peace and self esteem… I have been extremely saddened by this particular aspect.
I am the first to admit I have contributed to all these things and checking my social media apps was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night. I was it’s willing slave. Until recently.
Instant gratification and virtue signalling are the new designer drugs without the need to actually do something or earn something. while all the time we are losing our touch with each other and empathy with our fellow man (and woman).
During the pandemic I have been given pause to notice how reliant we have all become and how this is not going to change overnight; or maybe ever. I recognised how isolated, stressed, scared, depressed and disconnected we have become and how much we truly missed human contact. Our mental health and survival relies on many other aspects of social interaction and contact which can’t be replaced by a computer or phone.
We are not designed to live in isolation and without real connection with others. We have not evolved to become single entities. Our reliance on social media is testimony to how much we need each other. What I am horrified at is how we seem to be losing our empathy, understanding, kindness and respect for each other that can not be replaced by a screen or monitor.
Moreover the rise in online bullying, keyboard attacking and anonymous thought policing is a truly horrific aspect which should make us all concerned. I weep for the instances I have encountered and the effects it has on us all as human beings.
The amount of misinformation and manipulation is something we all need to be aware of and learn better ways to protect ourselves against. With every advancement in technology there are also dangers and challenges. I have decided to take time away from social media and focus on things that I believe I may have lost along the way in the past decade or more.
My aim now is to find balance between my online presence and my physical presence and to rekindle relationships in more meaningful ways. Relationships with myself and others. I want to know who I am and appreciate who I am in more ways than the current social media platforms allow and grow myself this year. I don’t dismiss the important tool that online communications are but as a person, a human being and a social creature I need the important things that only the outside world and others can truly provide. i want yo be free to experience, make up my own mind, feel and interact this world on my own terms without being caught in the World Wide Web.