Social media seems to be taking over the world. It’s not so much 1984 and Big Brother (even though the NSA is keeping up with all electronic communications) but more that we are all turning into individual limited-function terminals.
People are sharing information more and more and, conversely, information is having less and less value. That’s because so much of what is shared is not worth sharing or even appropriate to share.
As people rely more on Pidgin English texted, messaged, emailed communication they are looking at each other in person less and less.
And people are not only losing a sense of courtesy and respect for each other in person, they are getting downright mean online.
Bullying is increasing and online shaming is increasing even more. Having an electronic sort of aesthetic distance, a digital mask to hide behind, makes it easy to be mean.
What people may not realize is the unintended consequence of such actions, though.
A story in last month’s issued of Wired magazine gave the account of a well-known female blogger who overheard two males at a tech convention making somewhat crude jokes using technology puns (I will be no more specific). She decided it was not cool and took their photo, tweeting it out to shame them.
Her intentions went no farther than that but because she had followers the message went viral. At first the action drew praise but then one of the men’s employers saw it and fired him, which then brought criticism to the woman. She lost her job as a result and the other suffered as well.
Once a person puts anything – anything at all – out on the internet, he or she has no control over it at all.
There are no take-backs, no do-overs with social media. And efforts at damage control often make the situation worse.
There is a TV commercial that includes the line – ironically, one hopes – “You can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.” People are learning the hard way that is indeed not so. Much of what transverses the internet is not only untrue, it is likely to be misunderstood, emoticons notwithstanding. Like the scenery along the road on the way to work, people are becoming too familiar with social media to apply any critical thinking to what they do.
The situation may not continue indefinitely, however.
That’s because social media is becoming passé. Parents are using it. Grandparents are using it. It ain’t cool anymore. It’s time for the Next Thing, whatever that is.
Anything of real value on internet is gradually going away, at least in openly accessible form, because there is no free lunch. Anything of quality or value must be supported somehow.
Remember the days of free satellite TV? Where are they now? The internet is gradually going the same way.
Information providers with value are slowly moving to a paywall or subscription model. “Likes” may have some value in limited situations but no one can actually determine that value and they are largely ethereal.
Don’t get me wrong; social media still has some value. People just need to remember they are, as the article said, opening a door they can’t close.
So I, who used to be Mr. Techno Geek, prefer to communicate with people face to face, largely avoid even phone conversations and use only the email absolutely necessary.
I prefer to keep whatever humanity I have, and make sure that whatever mistakes I make, the fault is entirely mine. Sometimes analog is superior to digital and looking someone in the eye offers way more bandwidth.
J. Lynn West
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