A social or a media problem?

I don’t have a problem with social media, but I don’t trust it. Does anyone really? I mean, sure it helps me connect with strangers I would have walked past in real life, but it also doesn’t protect me or anyone else from being publicly attacked or humiliated, and that doesn’t feel good to me.

I know, I know; we all have our opinions and we’re never going to agree on everything, but I don’t understand why that should lead a surprising amount of people to send people death threats and call them all the names under the sun, when they disagree with an article someone has written, or God forbid, a comment about something that is literally 140 characters long. Perhaps I am naive for expecting more from people, but I’ll take naivety over jaded cynicism any day, thank you very much.

I’m not saying anything a hundred other people haven’t already said, but I find the idea that we are actually “connecting” online to be a bit of a misrepresentation. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably figured out by now that I have minimal skills when it comes to connecting with the person I’m in a relationship with, especially when they are there in front of me, in the flesh and blood. So how on earth could I profess to connect with people hundreds of miles away, submitting words into the ether of the internet via a similar machine to my own, hoping that someone sees those words and comments on them, thus forming a “connection”?

I’m being flippant of course, but I really don’t know how else I could make my point otherwise. I don’t play by the rules of ‘logic’ when forming an argument and you’ll just have to deal with that, Reader. But seriously, I am aware that social media allows a lot of people who are not social in the real world, to at least have some avenue to connect with others and share their opinions and grow, even if it is with people they might never meet in “real life”.

I suppose I just worry that eventually we will all just live out our lives via computers, and human intimacy will soon be a thing of the past, where we can create avatars and emoticons that express all the emotions we would be terrified to show in real life.  This is essentially like that terrible film Bruce Willis was in a few years ago, called The Surrogate, where everyone had real life surrogate bodies who lived for them and were controlled via computers. I think that future would be just as terrible as the film was, so let’s avoid letting things get there and everything will be fine.

For now though, there are so many wonderful things about social media that I highly doubt it will die down anytime soon. I think when it began it was very much about pseudo intimacy and being whoever you wanted to pretend to be that day, and now that seems to have turned on its head. If anything, people are much more themselves online than they are in real life, because they can be authentic and genuine about their opinions usually without immediate rebuttal, and even if they do get negative feedback, they can just go offline. You can’t do that with real people; not the ones who don’t let you walk away until you’ve heard their argument and decided that they’re right about everything ever. So I guess in some ways social media is the safer way to expose yourself to others; supposedly.

This is on my mind because I recently decided to quit Facebook, which by the way, is almost impossible. At least it is for me, because I am a Facebook veteran and joined it when it was just something university students used as a place to flirt and post our drunken pictures on. This means that I’ve got almost ten years worth of pictures on my Facebook account, and no matter how much I try to protect my profile, I know those pictures are there on the internet, waiting to be used against me in some kind of political smear campaign. So I’m just never going to get into politics or get famous, and then everything will be fine.

Anyway, I saw the darker side to Facebook recently. I wrote an article, I posted it on Facebook, I received comments about it and there were some that I liked and some that I didn’t. The thing was that it brought out a terrible side of me that I do not care for. It was kind of like a cross between a seemingly desperate need to be accepted and understood, and general anger at having to justify my take on my own personal experience. I hated everything about it, and thought, “Fuck this, goodbye Facebook”. So that was that and I’m pretty sure no one has even noticed I’ve gone. But I know it, and that’s what counts. I decided that I’ve got this blog and I’ll let my writing speak for itself, and I actually have a choice about who I interact with online, just as I do in real life, even if for a moment there I thought that I didn’t.

And that’s my problem with social media; it has become a necessity and such a big part of our lives that if you’re not “plugged in” or “logged on” or “jacked up” (wait, that’s what happens when you go to the gym right?) then you think you’re missing out on some important aspects of life or you’re not cool anymore, and it’s just not true. It also makes you feel like you have to stay involved or you’ll miss a major worldwide disaster like the world ending (although I’m pretty sure that if you weren’t on Twitter or Facebook and the world was ending, you’d probably figure it out once you left your house).

Social media is like a really good drug that leaves you initially functional and even improved in some ways, but can turn on you as soon as you say or do something that the other drug addicts don’t like, and suddenly it has the ability to ruin your life and your mental health in one foul swoop. Yet you’ve become so used to it that you just accept that that’s the way it is and you’ll just have to deal with it, but you don’t have to! You can log out, turn that iPad/ laptop/ phone off and go outside, smell some flowers or whatever (if you live in a city, smell some buildings, or the pavement; it won’t be nice but it’s something different, right?). And you can remind yourself that behind all that social media are just other people and their opinions and sometimes as you well know, people can be shitty and are drawn to a mob mentality which if it were real life, would have trampled you to death in its haste of imposing its views on you.

I love you social media, and I also hate you, and once I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to tweet about it. Just so that everyone else knows too; I wouldn’t want them to miss out.

Image credit: Bird by Isabel Foo from the Noun Project

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Maame Blue

Writer| Poet| Blogger| Ghanaian by heart, Londoner by nature

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