Back in early 2007 I went to a restaurant with a pretty large group of friends and acquaintances in Las Vegas. We were there for hours, laughing and engaging at a volume loud enough to make one side of the table miss the conversation. From the moment of sitting down to the moment we split the check, to the parking lot, we were having a good time. We also had social gatherings that played out the exact same way. Some people had social media accounts, some didn’t, either way none of them were overly concerned with them when socializing in person. I went to a restaurant a few weeks ago and looked around the room and across the table from me, a vast majority of the patrons were gazing down at phones, taking selfies, or taking pictures of their food. Due to the quiet nature of taking a picture, I was able to hear the conversation of people with food 4 tables away even though there was background music playing.
We are living in an era of amazing technological capabilities, but the primary use for these abilities is to show off on the internet by way of social media. Kids are now seeking to be social media influencers when they get older because there is more money to be made from getting people to believe bullshit than there is in providing real value to the world. Unlike traditional religion, people can see and put their hands on the religion of social media. Some use these new tools for improving or attempting to improve the world around them, whereas most use it for selfish reasons, much like traditional religion. Also, much like traditional religion, this social media religion does far more to separate, than unite us, and it is super easy to convert people into it.
I was looking at the occurrence of school shootings over the last 40 years. Needless to say, it has gone up, but the senselessness of the acts has gone up as well. Not that any are good or justifiable, the primary reason for the early school shootings was a response to ridicule from the people that were ultimately victims. Though this is still sad, the victims were targeted by the shooter. Now, it is almost 100% random. There is no greater lesson or precautionary tale, these are just random acts of violence that can’t be avoided due to an overabundance of guns and a lack of human connection. People are being conditioned in this virtual space, free of consequence or tangible impact. When released to society, they carry these virtual personas, and the results are tragic…week after week.
I don’t give a f*ck because Twitter is not a real placeDave Chappelle
The political landscape is also corrupted by the numbing of social media. Again, people are free to exaggerate the truth, provide baseless opinion or actively mislead people all under the guise of news to the numbed minds incapable of discerning fact from fable. Whatever sounds good is accepted as fact to the individual, and the social media giants are exacerbating the problem with their algorithms designed to keep you on their platform. So instead of challenging your beliefs, or God forbid providing truth, they confirm your biases and target ads specifically to you so you can purchase things in line with your contrived world and you are none the wiser as a result. If you are actively on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram or any of the social media sites, rest assured you are impacted by this no matter how much you believe you are immune. To them, we are all just bags of data to be exploited for money when we go onto the internet. Meanwhile, the owners of these companies take their billions and build fortresses to protect them from the society they’re helping to create. That’s cold blooded.
With Facebook, what began as a way to cyber stalk or reunite with friends, classmates, and relatives is now being used exclusively to exploit users for profit. I’m sure most if not all users feel like willing participants, but the information contained in their terms of service detailing how the service is funded should make you think 3 or 4 times about what you post. They explicitly state “we collect and use your personal data to provide these services” they give innocent examples of the ads you’ll see but the reality is, they create a bias filled echo chamber that people would have to actively leave but are almost incapable of doing with the algorithms forcing their own biases back on them. Google searches can influence what one sees on Facebook, likewise, what people do on Facebook can fuel what turns up in Google searches. So, when people rely on their “own research” it is still likely that they’ll be able to confirm their biases. That said, in addition to being desensitized we are also getting dumber as a society and we foolishly believe we are more informed than prior eras. No, we are more indoctrinated with dumb, unverifiable crap posing as information.
Change is needed
At some point in this shared experience, we’ll have to realize this vapid, transactional, self-serving way of life we are experiencing now is unsustainable with any expectation of progress or civility. The application of religion is clearly not an adequate response nor is there a need for harsher penalties, as even the threats of death and permanent damnation don’t deter murderers. We also don’t need a new dance craze or TikTok challenge to unite us either, because even if we could all agree this fad is cool for the moment, at its best it is just a momentary distraction from more pressing matters. We don’t need any of the aforementioned things because we already have them in abundance and society is slipping further and further into chaos. More of the same rewards you with more of the same.
Instead, we need to start with an application of sense, preferably good sense, or common sense. Right now, it seems our society is more concerned with fashion sense and an inflated sense of self. I believe societies should unite for the purpose of the greater good, opposed to self-aggrandizement, but there is no universally accepted definition of what “greater good” is. In theory, that is the role of any central government, but anything capable of providing an advantage will be exploited by someone. The copycats will copy and the way of exploitation will become “success” in the mind of the masses. However, if we can somehow approach these societal ills with empathy and compassion, we may be able to turn the tide. We all have the individual ability to make the change, but it starts with understanding we have a problem in the first place.