So for those of you who haven’t seen it, there’s a video floating around on the internet (and mostly being shared by Facebook which I really hope isn’t lost on the people sharing it there) telling us that people / experiences are being ruined by social media.
As a long-time fan of Spoken Word poetry (especially when coupled with short films – so pretty), I appreciate the beauty of the video and everyone who has met me knows I’ve probably played the same arguments out at some point. But to everyone taking it as gospel and then climbing on their high horses to post it passive-aggressively to FB or twitter: really?
You know what? I am so over people telling me that technology is ruining our lives, and that apparently shared experiences and the desire to “check in” and photograph everything is destroying my ability to socialise and interact with humans. For starters, the desire to document the human experience has not just sprung up in the last twenty years. Are you kidding me? Really?
What exactly do you think are cave paintings, pottery, engravings, autobiographys, and letters are meant to do? The historic need to share experience and knowledge dates back to the beginning of humanity as we know it. I really don’t see why the ability or desire to do this is suddenly becoming a shameful or alarming prospect.
And yes, the shameful (or shameless) selfie. God forbid you go somewhere without taking a photo of yourself!, cry the nay-sayers.
Well…yes we are indulging in more photos and visual evidence of day-to-day life…but is that really a direct response to an increase in the self-obsessed nature of humanity?
I would argue not, in fact, I would argue the prolific accessibility of technology has only unlocked that need and made satisfaction of that need to create visual self-imaging easier. Indeed, perhaps the reason yee-old people didn’t take so many selfies, was simply because…they didn’t have cameras.
Self-portrait paintings, for example, are dated by many art historians as starting at least by the 1400s. Not to mention the fact that some of those works are the most celebrated and revered in our culture. To name a few off the top of my head: Frida Khalo; and, Vincent Van Gogh.
Then there’s folks who used what we would probably compare to photoshop by editing themselves into important events they were (probably) not a part of at all. I’ve heard theories about Michelanglo for example. Is selfie culture really that new? Or are we just noticing now because even those of us without talent can try it out without hiring someone for hundreds of dollars and sitting patiently by whilst they painstakingly recreate us?
Perhaps people complaining about all this documentation aren’t really paying attention?
Ok but just because we’re always done it doesn’t mean we should keep doing it. Is the issue is that I’m so busy taking photos of my breakfast that I’m not calling my friends to talk to them anymore? Is it true that I’m missing out on human interaction because I’m not looking up from my phone? Why aren’t I chatting with that random on the bus?
No wait. Sorry. Don’t talk to strangers. Do talk to strangers? Now I’m confused. There is a definite and very strong message from society that victims are responsible ones, such as in cases of sexual assault.
You were out late? By yourself? And you spoke to a random guy on the train? What were you expecting?
You should have known better!
So how prolific is victim blaming in society? Pretty damn common, as it turns out. In rape culture for example:
The 18-24 group were more likely to say that engaging in conversation in a bar or accepting a drink makes them partially responsible. But it is this age group that are more likely to be going out doing that. We need to get the message out in schools that rape is never your fault. – Elizabeth Harrison (x)
So if I’m alone, I’m afraid I can’t think of even one reason why I would openly initiate conversation with someone I don’t know when if someone does happen the standard of whether or not it was a crime is going to be “Yeh but you started it”.
Honestly, is the fact that I own a Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr account really going to stop me avoiding conversation? Or could there maybe be another reason? Because let me guarantee you one thing. Even if I deleted this wordpress account today, I would still walk home with my keys clutched in my hand and my mobile out. Not because I want everyone to know that my hair looks fabulous today – but maybe because I don’t want an excuse for you to talk to me.
Any mathematician worth their salt will tell you: correlation doesn’t imply causation.
TL;DR: Having a Facebook is not the reason I won’t talk to strangers. Having a Facebook is not the reason I take photos. Deleting my facebook will not change these behaviours.
But okay, what are the real downsides to Social Media? Well, for one, it allows behaviours and ideas to spread really quickly. The bonus? We kind find lost puppies or long-lost friends or share important news and social events at the drop of a hat.
On the downside, the same is true for non-positive behaviours. Although I haven’t personally seen any research to the effect, I genuinely believe that the normalisation of self-harming and isolation behaviours on social media (particularly Tumblr in my experience) have contributed to the spread of said behaviours. That’s certainly a dangerous thought.
Social Media is not all sunshine and hipster filters. It’s dangerous. Sometimes we’re interacting with people who have a powerful ability to steal identies, money, and other things from us. Not to mention the rise in child pornography, the glorification of violence, and pirating or bootlegging music and movies/tv.
But is technology really all bad? Is Facebook really the root of all our problems? Or is it maybe a piece of a much larger puzzle? Is it maybe something that exists because humanity has a craving for the ability to document and share our lives? Does Skype really ruin our ability to see people in person? I’d argue no. Skype is the reason I can see my parents, my best friend, the people who live so far away from me.
Maybe we should all look up from the phone or laptop more often, but then again, maybe we should take responsibility for the issues we’re creating – rather than piling that blame on a website?
Is Facebook the reason we’re not talking to people any more? Maybe. But my guess is there’s a whole other mixing pot of things there too. Can’t we try dealing with the issue, not the internet?
Just a thought.