By Ron Marr
My closest contact with Facebook consists of walking past a mirror while holding a book. Twitter is a sound made by birds and gossipy old women. Instagram might be a subset of the metric system, or it might be a grandmother who grows when you sprinkle her with water. Then you’ve got your Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and a slew of other Internet wastelands. Social media—the very name is an oxymoron ranking above fantasies like Congressional ethics and Aunt Jemima Light. It’s the most unsociable venue ever created.
I don’t understand the attraction, but more than half of America does (Facebook boasts 170 million American users, and Twitter receives 400 million worldwide visits monthly). The only social benefit I glean from social media is that it teaches people how to ineffectively communicate. Slapping up pictures of your lunch or using online anonymity to behave like the malignant cousin of a horse’s behind (in 140 characters or less) does not contribute to an enlightened society.
I suppose social media is handy for stalkers, con artists, and narcissists. It’s a blessing for those with tiny attention spans. The latter group encompasses millions, as the information bombardment (largely wrong information) found within the peer-reviewed borders of the social media topography has caused the focusing skills of ardent users to devolve to that of a special-needs gnat.
But social media is a good way to sell stuff. Its addictive quality convinces people they should believe in ridiculous concepts and causes. Therein lies the whole point of social media (and the Internet in general). Its underlying goal is to sell you products you don’t want and convince you to accept doctrine, ideology, and assumptions that belie common sense.
More and more I feel we have traded curiosity, rationality, and creative thought for membership in frightened flocks of compliant cyber sheep.
The collective IQ has declined since the advent of antisocial networks. This is unfortunate, because it wasn’t that high to begin with. The Facebook revolution fostered crass behavior, decay in common courtesy, and inability to engage in critical thinking. It encouraged an increase in hypersensitivity, political correctness, and virtual relationships. It has led to a decrease in decision making skills, self-reliance, and individuality.
After observing our connected Internet village, I’ve come to the conclusion that humans lack the maturity to abstain from abusing technology. We’ve seen it before. Scientific marvels are inevitably converted into weapons of war. Medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs are predictably abused in ways their inventors never foresaw. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about nuclear fission, oxycodone, plastic surgery, or texting and driving. When it comes to technology, we are like animals, chewing through the electrical cord simply because it’s there.
But the Internet and its egregious social media spawn is the first advancement that has become an appendage; it’s with us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. People rely on it for entertainment, for pseudo-contact with people they may or may not know. They rely on it to answer their questions, define their choices, and assuage the fear that they might make a mistake due to lack of information. Risks and leaps of faith are heresy in the information age.
I suspect reliance on social media leads many to feel they are not alone, eliminating the need to engage in introspection. The truth is they are more alone than ever. Our species has forgotten that wisdom arises from missteps and errors, from personal experience, from self-analysis. Sadly, it doesn’t even realize it’s forgotten.
I’d like to say I’m totally removed from social media, but I just received a text message from Jack the Dog pointing out otherwise. He reminded me that I occasionally slap up YouTube videos in an effort to sell homemade stringed instruments that nobody wants. Jack says this is a dangerous temptation, a slippery slope that could lead to throwing a virtual ball or spending all day posting online pictures of his Kibble and Bits.
“Dogs don’t use social media,” explained my sagacious pup, “because we recognize the gaping chasm between truth and delusion. We prefer fun and tangible over vacuous and nominal. We’re graced with impeccable instincts, whereas you’re graced with opposable thumbs.
“Thanks to social media, people no longer trust their gut,” Jack continued. “They only trust what they see on Facebook and Google.”