Social media is great because it has made complex, deep emotions so easy to express. Death of loved ones with RIP messages and we shed some emotional load. A birthday and pictures of our friend, our deed is partly done in showing how much they are loved. Dog killers and posts are shared at the speed of light, people uniting in hate.
Sharing at the convenience of a click is taking away reflection, contemplation, passion. Users are robotically propagating their agendas, their rights, their voices, their ideas. We click and then move onto the next thing.
Social media is also creating a lot of misconceptions. Uninformed, vehement people are igniting the fires of other half informed people across the world. A mob physically dispersed across the world is congregating, burgeoning and bursting on the electro-plasmatic spaces of facebook and twitter.
What does it mean to share, to sign the petition, to post, to like, to comment, to update the status?
What does it mean as a responsibility we have as human beings?
Because we have started living more on the internet than temporally. Because we are sharing more pictures of toes in the sand and azure waters with “Keep calm and xyz” instead of really waking up to see the sunrise or digging our toes into the earth. We have begun to believe that life can only be enjoyed momentarily, compartmentalized between holidays and work. We see a a walk in the woods or a drive through the countryside as something we do on holidays.
Frankly, I'm so sick of these senseless "keep calm and ..."
And then, the check-ins. We are wasting precious seconds of magical life to tell the world where we are at the moment. Checking into airport first class lounges, into suites at Six Senses, the hip bars in New York and shopping at PlaceVendome. Why does the world need to know? How does it enhance the experience? Have we become so dependent on sharing such mundane information that without it, our experience becomes incomplete? Do we really need to “check in”?
And the life we aspire to have. The photos of beautiful sunsets with a few profound sentences along the lines of how life should be lived, about meditation and acceptance and letting go. Juxtaposed by an upload of pictures of last night's conquests.
Maybe we are a bit of everything rolled into one complex philosophy that defines each individual. But my point is, what is this ease of sharing our thoughts really doing to us? And is it affecting society and humanity?
By expressing what we feel, what we want, what we think on social media, we are essentially shedding an integral part of us. Our passions. We feel that by sharing our thoughts with the world, we have made the journey, half way. We are expressing what we feel with such an ease and nonchalance that it begins to mean nothing.
Our minds feel good. Our egos better. We are good people. We do care. We are righteous.
And this is where the problem begins. We begin to feel that by expressing ourselves, we are showing the world who we are. Good people, that is. We are finding it incredibly easy to place the blame on others, to scream at lion hunters, to attack governments, to shame assholes.
We are conveniently removing ourselves from the problem equation.
We have become couch activists, screaming for human rights, animal rights, global warming, anti-terrorism, etc. Spreading information and opinions with a click. Igniting fires on the internet that may burn our capabilities to do something in the real world.
Something about social media is taking away responsibility from us and conveniently placing it on others. The minute we share or update our status,s we move on. Sharing on social media is like an emotional outburst that is needed to help people move on. When you NEED to cry to move on, when you NEED to scream to forget. By sharing, we are stopping. We are no longer questioning deeply, the implications of what we are saying on the internet.
Cheap online journals and websites by the score are not helping either. False information, tacky web content, shamefully low quality research is propagating web hysteria. “15 reasons to live abroad”, “7 ways to achieve inner peace”, “15 unbelievable photos of earth”, “10 places to see before you die”. Since when did it become so simple that we began to quantify some of the most profound questions of humanity like how to live, the meaning of life and a balanced living? Where are we going if we are sharing content that is giving us 12 ways in which we can improve our lives to become who we are meant to be, to realize our untapped, unbound, human potential? What does it mean when 1176 hours of meditation by Buddha gets a very hip, shiny, attention caching wrapping so that people on the bustle can decipher the profound truth he was trying to propagate in 10 effective snap-points and in 2 short minutes? If this is what we are into, aren't we sinking slowly into a shit hole of stunted intellect and emotional or spiritual questioning?
What is WITH the numbers? How ridiculous is this becoming?
Take the case of Cecil, the lion who was recently shot by an American hunter. All the sites that confuse the hunting with poaching and then the signatures to ban hunting. What are couch activists doing and what implications do their actions have on the future? Also, how is it that they are so easily distancing themselves from their own responsibilities? Is hunting the biggest threat to lions or are there other issues that are putting the species at risk? We can safely say that the biggest threat to lions is loss of habitat and subsequently human-wildlife conflict (attack on cattle and people resulting in retaliatory measures like spearing, poising etc). Do we not have a big role to play in habitat loss – do we not see that our consumption and the economic mechanisms of the world are pushing less privileged people or societies constantly into protected areas? Global warming and unpredictable weather patterns are accelerating desertification, flash floods, etc. These things affect forests and wildlife. And we are affecting the weather.
Frankly, when it comes to numbers, we are a far greater threat to lions than a bigoted, egocentric hunter. He even pays and his money is sustaining entire habitats that would have otherwise been encroached upon and depleted for meat, illegal logging and supplying east Asia with animal parts.
Sure, social media is very powerful too. I am just concerned about how we are steering the course of our future and the world by our nonchalant and ill informed one-click petitions or support and by doing so relieving our responsibilities.
On a personal level, what is it doing to our reasoning and the pains we should be taking to reflect on the most important questions of living. Is everything really meant to be so easy? Aren't some journeys just meant to be hard? Are these articles and posts damaging our intellect and the amazing human gift we have to question and reflect? Because sharing or expressing on the internet has become such an integral part of our lives that when we do anything on the internet we are beginning to subconsciously project it into our “real” lives. Whether it is becoming friends with someone, blocking a friend you no longer like or in this case, activism. And the danger of that is, because we see the action as so complete because we have done it on social media, we tend to deem it, finished in the real world. We have a sense of achievement.
But certain questions are questions of a lifetime. Certain inquisitions are the reason why human beings are who they are, an unique animal that evolved an amazing ability to introspect and be profound.
Our trends on the internet are determining our lives on earth. It is ok to protest, to rebel, to be senseless now and then but we need to understand the implications of our protests and rebellions. When we make choices for those who are far and different from us, we may feel that we are serving the cause of human rights but our choices could be destroying their world. Similarly for wildlife.
Can we let content just make us deeply question, instead of simply act? Won't a reasonable outcome be the result of a complete understanding?
Can we stop quantifying life and spirituality and stop pretending that there are 5 or 7 or 10 easy steps to achieving balance?
If we reject this lie and stop demanding and consuming this heap of cleverly packaged and utterly disrespectful nonsense, we will be doing the world a far greater good than professing our intent and righteousness on the internet. Because, then, we will be taking a leap in the real world.
This “social” web, what we think connects us is also what is destroying very real social connections. Yes, we are reaching out to people across the world more easily. We are connecting with our “clique” more easily. It is true. But we are simplifying the process so much that we are forgoing essential learning, our social skills. We are turning into demanding little trolls. This ease of access is killing the chance discovery, the mistakes. We aren't stopping on the way any longer. We are made to believe that we just don't have the time! Why read a book about the strange and wonderful world of the world's tribes when we can see it in a shoddy, ramshackle representation that sets it up in 5 glossy pictures. By doing this for so much, we are rejecting those who have dedicated their lives to the furthering of humanity – historians, philosophers, writers, spiritual figures, anthropologists, musicians, linguists. People who have or had dedicated their lives to understanding these subjects are replaced by barely-out-of-adolescence youth who are churning out content by the giga byte for uninspiring, intellectually defeated websites like buzzfeed and their contemporaries. We no longer want to delve deep, just skim the surface and know enough to be able to “share” it.
Magazine subscriptions for journals like the National Geographic have been dramatically cut. 73 million dollars lost in subscriptions in less than a decade. Newsweek and Life don't even exist anymore.
This means lower funding to scientists in the field, 30 days instead of 6 months for photojournalists on a story.... everything that we are protesting against on the internet! Let's save the lions from hunting, lets halt global warming, lets give rights to the tribes!! How can this be done without understanding absolutely about the lions or global warming or the at-risk tribes? How can the scientists and journalists understand what they need to, with reduced funding, quick turn-arounds on stories, etc ? Instead of helping societies and establishment that have existed for over a century, bringing into our lives news of discovery from far corners of the earth, we are aimlessly logging onto buzzfeed and validating ridiculous content that satiates nothing but our demand for low quality information and engaging our surprisingly shortened attention spans and worn curiosities.
We are conveniently blind. Always blaming others for the atrocities, the twisted acts of cruelty, the political motives etc. But we are playing the game, we are the leaders. Our mediocrity and futility, our satisfaction with uninspiring content, demand for immediate and easy, is killing quality. Quality that requires effort and time and engagement.
We are the oxymorons.
Being right is difficult. Finding your chord in life's harmony can be daunting. Looking deep inside ourselves beyond sunlight needs special vision. Acquiring compassion needs acute awareness.
To change takes tremendous energy. To disagree takes courage. There are no easy steps or “5 quick ways”. There aren't just “20 amazing beaches” and “15 spectacular roads to travel on”. There are hundreds, even countless. You may even be on one right now.
We just need to excise ourselves from this psychology that has established such a keen grasp over us.
Don't check-in to tell us about the paradise you are in. Don't be foolish enough to waste that second. You are not pathetic enough to need validation from social media spies to have a good time.
Leave a bit to imagination. Talk about it with friends over dinner. Take time to understand the world. Read a book. Remember what it was like to discover something you never knew? Now, we know about everything, everywhere, but never really well enough. Isn't that sad?
Demand quality. Demand intelligence. Demand ingenuity.
If not, we are fucked.