Or, why I stayed off of social media for an entire year.
With most any human invention or endeavor, there are downsides and upsides.
Social media fits into this dilemma nicely.
Despite the claims of certain CEOs, social media (particularly Facebook) is not some revolution or paradigm shift. It is a marketing tool. It is a pastiche of internet message boards, instant messaging, and file sharing that is a boon for corporate entities and a bane for the privacy of those who just prefer to go their own way. It is a melting pot for subjective, knee-jerk opinions and beliefs while serving as a cloak over truth and objective thought.
That’s why I left. I had no need to be “social.” What use does it serve me to click “like” or to post photos of things that you’re going to forget as soon as you get to the next item in your feed? Clicking “like” or making a throwaway comment must satisfy some deep inner human urge, to affect something, to show “I was here.” I can understand that, but who is going to know or care what you liked or didn’t like on Facebook? Does anyone really care how many re-tweets your little tweet earned? Unless you made some great philosophical breakthrough or cured cancer in less than 150 characters, I doubt it.
This is of course, my own opinion. That comes back to the beauty and simultaneous horror of free speech and the power of the internet: I am free to share my opinion, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. The same is true of others. The truth, that is something that goes beyond the subjective, beyond the bounds of mere opinion. I can’t claim to know truth. All I can claim is that I know nothing. The universe is too vast for me to definitively say that I have found truth. But then, does that not put me one step ahead of those who claim to have “the answers?”
Pulling back from philosophy for a moment, this post, as an opinion piece, is not intended to demean people who use social media. It is ultimately, a tool. I recognize instances where something like Facebook might help keep a family connected that is otherwise separated by distance, work, perhaps even military duty. I know how sites like Instagram, Pintrest and Tumblr serve as a sort of meeting ground for like-minded individuals who share similar interests in media or culture. That’s all fine. What I don’t appreciate is the pressure, the oft-unspoken social obligation to participate in these things. I’ve had people recoil from me, like I was some leper pariah, when I told them I didn’t have a Facebook. That sort of cultural programming gave me pause and much to consider.
Of course, reality has come around to strike me in the face at warp nine. As an author who elected to self-publish his work, I found myself staring at the realization of needing to use modern social media tools to market my work. So after a full year of being unplugged, I did return to Facebook and other social outlets. I’ve found in a very short time that it is as full of reactionary subjectivism as ever. This is especially prevalent with politics. Politics in America is arguably a worse beast than in any other first world country. We get mired in it. Families allow themselves to be torn apart by it. People argue with each other on these sites knowing full well that they’re not going to change each others’ minds. So why do it? If you’re fortified in your opinion and the other person is too, and neither is willing to discuss matters objectively or with a modicum of intelligence, then what is the point?
It’s all drivel. “Me, me, me. Look at me and my opinion.”
I think the term “news feed” takes on a new meaning when you step away and analyze how this generation expresses itself and explores ideas. It’s a feed, alright. More like a trough than anything else.