An activist posts photos depicting atrocities in Aleppo. The Gates Foundation tweets about the benefits of Kangaroo Child Care in the third world. The Huffington Post peddles the latest and greatest buffoonery between Jennifer Lawrence and Reality Star Lala Kent.
For better or for worse, this is social media.
The virtual universe is rife with contradictions, conundrums, cons. The very moniker, "social media" is a by-product of the society of the redundancy society. What would the point of media be were it not social? Facebook without friends? Twitter without tweeters? Pinterest without pins?
Approximately 40 percent of the global population regularly plugs into social networks. That's 3 billion humans, triple the amount since 2010.
The aggregate social noise is deafening.
But does connecting equate well-being? What do we gain by igniting new or long-dormant relations with those who are but a fraction of our life's sum? Points in time matter. Were we fully formed ideological beings in high school or college? And as we navigate current connections, do they resonate the way they used to or need to?
Alice Walton has a PhD in Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience. She has written about whether or not social media can be formally addictive.
Experts have not been in total agreement on whether internet addiction is a real thing, let alone social media addiction, but there’s some good evidence that both may exist. A review study from Nottingham Trent University looked back over earlier research on the psychological characteristics, personality and social media use. The authors conclude that “it may be plausible to speak specifically of ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behavior, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively.” (They also found that the motivation for people’s excessive use of social networks differs depending on certain traits—introverts and extroverts use it for different reasons, as do people with narcissistic traits.) And studies have confirmed that people tend to undergo a kind of withdrawal
Walton also concludes:
Social media triggers more sadness, less well-being
Comparing our lives with others is mentally unhealthy
It can lead to jealousy—and a vicious cycle
We get caught in the delusion of thinking it will help
More friends on social doesn’t mean you’re more social
Launched in 1997, Six Degrees was the first social networking site. Users created profiles to befriend others they knew or wanted to know. Sound familiar? Then came weblogs. Then AOL Instant Messenger. Then MySpace. Then everything we know today.
The six degrees between Six Degrees and now is that social platforms are fueled by corporations that far more carefully curate us and the shadow profiles comprised of those to whom we are connected. Stripped of its colloquial guise, social media is brandish, brackish bunk acutely positioned for technologists to monitor our goings on in order to gather market intelligence and inform C-levels how to better sell widgets or worse. Nonetheless, social business is booming. And we are its prey.
Such platforms can be meritorious. Yet, if we have learned anything, it's that the lion's share of "best new thing" web ventures are likely to be as fleeting as a Scaramucci White House gig.
A contributor to Social Media Today, the self-appointed "world's best thinkers on social media," wrote, "People love taking quizzes about everything - from which Disney villain are they most like to if they were wine, would they be white, red or zinfandel?"
First off, Zinfandel is a grape, not a color. Second, do people truly love taking quizzes about Disney villains when they are juggling kids, jobs, bills, life?
Adobe commissioned a survey of 1,000 U.S. marketers that cited marketers are most concerned about "reaching customers and being able to understand whether their campaigns are working and effective."
Marketers concerned about effectively reaching customers? What a concept.
The point is, what's the point? We're hamsters driving Kias. We suckle the teets of our social devices as if disengaging would cause the world to cease spinning on its axis. More and more statistics illustrate how folks see the real world through the lens of the virtual world. Yet, we are absolutely not a more productive, more fortified people because of social living and marketing. If anything, we are a public growing woefully disengaged from our flesh and blood neighbor, from our terra firma, from our raison d'etre.
I worked in hi-tech through the 90's and into the turn of the century. I was a marketing executive at a boutique consulting firm that helped regional and global enterprises navigate the murky marketing waters of an emerging technological realm called "converged communications" - syncing computers and mobile devices so that users could be wholly connected to data and each other. Sound familiar? Admittedly, it was exciting on some level. The big, scary planet suddenly became a small world after all.
Yet here we are today, propitiously propped up with our metal boxes that manage our every engagement like some panacea for the increasingly inert. Except the panacea is more like Fentanyl.
Social media and marketing evangelists are the viral opioid dealers of the masses. Social tools are visceral drugs that send us down the slipperiest of slopes. Geek-speak gurus constantly promote their crackerjack machinations. They compel corporations to worship at the alter of social analytics. They push average Joes and Jills to get all Lady GaGa over cleverly crafted content. But the truth is, all of this can be boiled to a very simple equation: somebody wants something that somebody else has. One cro-mag cozied up to another because he figured out how to start a fire. And because there was nothing else to do.
FaceMash was a short-lived social site launched in 2003. Photos of two Harvard students appeared on screen for users to judge whether either was hot-or-not or one more so than the other. At face value, this was nothing more than creepy callousness developed by a depraved, half-life Ivy Leaguer. As we know, the same knave now calls 2.2 billion people his "friends" - friends who peek through the living room windows of those with whom they may or may not be, well, friends. How ironic that someone like Zuckerberg, arguably with the social skills of cement, holds the keys to the world's most socially active media kingdom.
Is this what progress looks like? Will we eventually communicate solely with our thumbs instead of our mouths? Will Harvard be the next University of Phoenix? Will future Presidents get elected based on the their number of Facebook friends? Will children grow up without looking up at the sky?
Life before Facebook was much quieter. Far fewer videos of crazy cats or posts about mundane goings-on or content from self-appointed generals that sends us soaring into black holes.
Somehow it has become an absurd conceit to entertain an extensive shut down in order to enjoy the real world with tried and true friends. No, no, not the kind on Facebook. The flesh and blood ones. The ones who will probably be too busy instagramming their other friends to entertain such madness.