Anyone paying the slightest attention to the evolution of social media will be fascinated, if not nearly depressed by the many activities that play out on it. The emergence of big tech has ushered in a surging wave of digitization; it has thrust the world into a ‘digital age’ in which physical interaction is not nearly as sought after as it used to be.
Rather than being a medium of inter-connectivity and networking among family and friends, social media has become a tool for perpetuating social vices and self-satisfying actions while simultaneously posing grave dangers to our individual safety and security.
While much has been said about the perils of social media with respect to security and cyber crimes, very little attention has been paid to the rising obsession with self.
This might be because we are less familiar with this idea, but the essence and meaning of it has taken a greater toll on our society than any of the aforementioned threats.
To be clear, a self-centred, individualistic view of the world is not unfamiliar to human nature. Indeed, one could argue that the previous generations are no more or less self-interested and self-centred than we are today; for it is nascent in man’s flawed nature to be superciliously focused on himself. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the idea of self-love is pervasive in our culture today.
The combined effect of both social media and the selfish demands of human nature blend perfectly to produce the bane of our collective existence.
Our need to be followed and seen, to have our own audience that constantly hears and ‘likes’ us is satisfied by social media programming and algorithms. To keep us actively indulgent, digital media constantly recreates its caricature of everything – education, politics, religion, social relationships–the effect of which is that humanity is stoked with a myriad of evanescent content and information that have no significant consequence in the real world.
It has been said that we live in the age of digital content, and because it is our collective determined will to be an employee in the global market of content, there is the need to do all that has to be done to keep our audience entertained; whether that is a ‘selfie’ in front of a branded boutique, a mirror shot in the elevator of a five-star hotel, a shot of ‘me at the cafeteria’, an ‘Instagram live’ with a famous celebrity or (worse), dissemination of fake news to a gullible audience, who cares?
Reality is trapped in a superficial media existence that keeps information at our fingertips but pushes knowledge far away from us, making us a fine but empty barrel that produces ultimately rhythmless noise. It bears a striking semblance to the mode of existence described by Shakespeare in Macbeth, a “tale…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.
Social media does have its advantages; I do not advocate for a return to 19th century Luddism. The emergence of social media has caused a shift away from traditional telecommunication, providing an alternative and perhaps more efficient means of communication for which the world remains grateful. However, it equally portends a grave danger in that it has certain negative potential tendencies to which humanity has fallen prey.
It keeps our collective attention excessively fixed upon ourselves and what the world has to say about us. We crave validation from people who know nothing about us and we know nothing about. And since it is already an unwritten rule never to share anything negative, (at least about oneself) the world ‘likes’ us not so much for what we are as what we are known to be.
All that I have said may be summed up in these few words: the addictive nature of social media and the self-indulgence that it spurs both pose a greater threat to the quality of human interaction than is usually spoken of. The failure to remedy this situation will ultimately yield social discord within our corporate existence.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Late Wire