Social media comes in for a lot of criticism – rightly or wrongly? It depends I suppose on what the individual uses it for. The prime aim (apart from making some Jewish guy enough money to live on for a couple of centuries) is to connect. Strip away the reasons for that connection (career, family ties, social occasions…….and perhaps some I won’t go into in this blog!) and it leaves a basic function. As humans we need to ‘connect’ with other humans (barring hormones, personality disorders or a strange desire for solitary confinement). How we do this has changed dramatically, irreversibly and in a way nobody could have predicted before the arrival of the World Wide Web. Did Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau really know what they were heralding when they gave us the internet? I can’t imagine they did – at least, not on the scale we have today and the impact it has had on society in general.
I myself don’t use Twitter, but do a daily scroll on Facebook and Instagram. Why? Good question. Some days, I think it may be a chip planted in my brain while I was asleep one night because I often find myself sitting staring at my phone screen, zombie like and with no idea how I got there. That does disconcert me a little but fortunately I’m aware of it – self-help is still effective and I can now discipline myself to resist the urge to pick up that little metallic thingy and stare blankly at it every time I sit down. Go me.
I think I border on the cynical Facebook user…..actually, there’s no border about it. I become animated when I see a post based on someone’s ignorance. Likewise, I wouldn’t normally choose to share a coffee with anyone holding extreme views so to discover them airing their homophobic, racist or downright offensive opinions in my living room is ridiculous……..deleted. Yes, but what if that deletee (I just made that up) lives around the corner from you, or works at the desk opposite? You see, we couldn’t have predicted the many predicaments we land ourselves in when accepting that person who seemed so nice, so unassuming and easy-going……….
We all have our bug-bear. What one person ‘Likes’ another may roll their eyes at. That brings me to that great dilemma. The LIKES…….did you know there is a ‘thing’ about LIKES? Reading many articles dedicated to the etiquette and possible faux pas in social media, you get the feeling we have created a whole host of complex personality disorders by joining the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As we speak, somebody somewhere is crying into their mid-morning latte at the discovery they didn’t get a heart on their Instagram photo. To gain a heart, you need a certain number of people pressing the little heart on your uploaded photograph……..
Apparently, Facebook has it’s own LIKE issues. Friends have fallen out over the lack of LIKES they had, when another friend may have had more. This is playground stuff and brings us back to the age old desire to be noticed, envied, admired. Only now it is played out in front of us, on that screen we stare at automatically (and possibly involuntarily?) each day. It’s ability to unnerve and destabilise us, regardless of age, gives psychologists much food for thought and the opportunity to study this phenomenon for many years to come. How do teens feel about their middle aged parents sharing their lives across the pages of Facebook? Especially if it may seem they have much more exciting social lives! What if you’re tagged into a ‘check-in’ (don’t get me started on them) and your lie (“can’t come into work, got the lurgy, cough cough”) is exposed for all to see, or your status declares your devastation at the death of an iconic rock star when all who REALLY know you remember your hatred of every record they made?
This is all tongue in cheek, of course it is-who am I to police social media and to criticise ? Although, if there’s a job going Mr Zuckerberg, I’m your man………………..
On a more serious note, it has been my own experience that social media can be a great place – a medium for those who otherwise would not have had their voices heard. You have to wonder how much information we would be receiving from the mainstream media if Facebook/Twitter etc didn’t exist, how recent events in Europe with regards to the refugee crisis may have been whitewashed, or diluted for the eyes and ears of the world. Problems have not necessarily been solved on our planet because of social media – but highlighting them and knowing they are there is surely the first step towards enlightenment and motivating us all to try to make the world a better place?
I believe that sharing and discussing world issues on social media is healthy – for those that want to that is. It is not for me to criticise or demean anyone who uses it for other purposes. If it annoys me, I try to move on – barring racist, homophobic, sexist or downright disgusting posts, which I duly report. What I have found is that whilst I enjoy sharing and airing political/environmental/social topics, it has invited comments to the effect that Facebook etc is intended for lighthearted topics only. Who wrote that rule? That is intimidation surely – nothing ‘lighthearted’ about that at all.
Social media is fairly new and evolving – it may even have a shelf life and eventually phase itself out. Somehow I doubt that, so for now we will all have to try to get along in this crazy, unreal world of Posts, Likes and Shares!