Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Problems With Social Media - Part II

So after I posted Part I last week, I received some feedback from friends.  The overall consensus was that they liked what I wrote, but one friend stated that he thought it wasn't social media that was the problem, it was people in general.

His comment made me think and made me want to continue the discussion.  What do you think? Are we inherently ridiculous and act like it on venues like Facebook and Twitter? Or are these venues bringing out the worst in us?

Let's go back to when society wasn't using computers or cell phones.  I think that only encompasses the first 8-10 years of my life, so I had to turn to an older acquaintance to get their perspective.  I asked this acquaintance about her impression of people's behavior in relation to social media compared to when she was younger and social media didn't exist.  Her perspective was really interesting and here is a highlight:

- The wild behavior you see at parties, e.g. people running around naked, that isn't anything new.  People have always done crazy things, but those crazy people aren't the "problem," it's those who decide to make it public.  When this acquaintance was in high school, they had wild parties, but the behavior was contained.  If someone ran around naked, the knowledge of that incident was most likely kept within the high school.  But with social media, someone on the other side of the world can know about said incident in seconds.

Interesting - to think about the bystanders being the problem and not the people who are just doing their thing.  But why do the bystanders do it?  My acquaintance thinks it's because some feel that they always have to "one up" each other now.  Who can post the craziest picture? Who can post the funniest status?  The shy dude at the party now has the power to make himself look cool.  That point begs the question: is Social Media an outlet primarily for wallflowers?

Think about people that you consider to be "cool."  Think about people that you consider to be "popular."  Are those the people that you see all over your Facebook feed every day?  For my group of friends, the answer is more no than yes.  I wish I could run some stats on my Facebook friends and their activity as I'd be interested to see the top 10 posters.  On the other hand, I do have some friends who do seem to have it "all" that post regularly.  Do their motives to post differ from those who might not have it all?  Do they do it because they crave the admiration of their followers?  Or is the appearance of having it all just a ruse?  Now, think about people you know that never post on Facebook.  What do you think about them?  A quick scroll through my friends jogs some people into mind.  I think these people don't post because they don't really care.  They don't need others to know every single details of their life.  They don't feel that they need to whine about stuff that will never disappear, like traffic.  They value their privacy, and I really respect that.  Overall, I think some people have a much greater sense of Social Media Responsibility and those are the people who keep their posting to a minimum. 

So does the opinion of my acquaintance vary from mine?  Not very much.  In my previous post, I made all of us more or less equals and stated that Facebook and Social Media has made us whiny, critical, and needy.  My acquaintance states more or less that some (but not all) people are depending on Facebook to feel important, or feel like they matter. 

Where we do see eye to eye is that Facebook/Social Media is the enabler.  It is the enabler in that it A. it makes us forego the privacy in our lives in exchange for some short-term ego boosts and B. it provides a façade of no consequences.  While that streaker at the party was there in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today, it is now that everyone knows about it.  Is it the streaker's "no regrets" attitude that has rubbed off on people? Is it because we see pictures of them and hear about them that that's how we are inclined to act?  You don't see pictures of people reading books or quietly chatting in a corner.  Is it the content that is influencing others to go out and do the same?  If people from the 1950s were exposed to Facebook where all they saw were girls wearing slutty outfits and people getting sloppily drunk, would they eventually go out and do the same?  My inclination is yes. 

So, do we have a chicken or egg problem here?  Are we just crazy? Or is Facebook making us so?  I am standing with my opinion that Facebook is the issue.  Facebook has wharped our opinions of what matters in the present moment.  It's not what the guy in the next town is doing, it's not what your aunt in a different state is doing, it is about what is going on in your surroundings right now.  It's about what you can see in front of your face.  It's about those people who are sitting at the same table.  It's about true reality, not virtual reality.

"If you can't be with the one you love, honey/Love the one you're with." - Crosby Stills Nash

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