Sunday, December 13, 2015

Who Knew Social Media Could Be So Anti-Social?

We are addicted to our phones.  They’re the first thing we reach for when we wake up, and the last thing we put down before we go to sleep.  They’re our constant line of communication with outside world—all of it—for better or for worse.

The internet has brought with it a wealth of easily accessible knowledge and opportunity for the average consumer, but with that has arisen a new challenge for humanity: we must discern whether the information with which we are constantly bombarded is valuable or not.  Yet, this task is not as simple as it might seem at first glance, because often the decision of whether or not we absorb new intellectual material is a passive one.

The notion of mindlessly perusing[1] Facebook as a source of diversion is, just that, mindless.  We spend countless hours inhaling a collage of seemingly arbitrary media, whose quality is questionable at best, and ignorant or offensive at worst.  Admittedly, I'm the one posting half of this shit.  Nevertheless, we are often completely dissociated with the alternative of spending time doing something else—anything else.

The fact of the matter is that people have survived without iPhones for the entirety of human existence.  We pride ourselves on our ability to learn, analyze, create—our ability to actively seek psychological satisfaction.  The internet, at first, was the key that opened a vault of knowledge that, for most, was traditionally hidden behind lock and key.  Yet, it seems that we have come to a point where our dependence on virtual reality has compromised our social tendencies indefinitely.

We have, in effect, replaced social diversion of all forms with one that from a practical perspective is markedly inferior.  We forgo news articles written by professional journalists, and, instead, settle for tweets written by otherwise unremarkable strangers.  Instead of meeting face to face, we meet on FaceTime.  We consume every void moment[2], competing for likes and retweets, perpetuating an artificial social responsibility that we created for ourselves.

Suddenly, people have become more concerned with if it looked like they were having fun in their photos, than if they actually had a good time.  Similarly, we have convinced ourselves that studying and acquiring an acute knowledge[3] of this virtual reality is a valuable use for a shockingly large portion of our time.[4]  This is not by the explicit fault of anyone’s own, however, but rather, by our implicit ignorance of this problem's overwhelming pervasiveness.

As a result, without even realizing it, we've allowed social media to consume our lives.  I think it's about time we do something about it.

[1] I fear, I may be one of the minority who describes their admitted Facebook overuse in such rhetorical terms.
[2] Before Candy Crush was a thing, people read books on the toilet!
[3] This acquisition of knowledge is more commonly referred to as Facebook stalking.
[4] I got a Facebook account when I was 13 years old—if I spent two hours a day on Facebook until I was 80, I’d have logged about 48,776 hours on the world’s most popular social media outlet, by my best estimate (that’s more than 5 years).

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