Are we hiding behind selfies and negative social media behaviour instead of promoting human interaction and kindness?
A soccer commenter in the United Kingdom once said, “everyone is as brave as a lion behind the screens of their computer or phone.” This cogent point made me think and reminisce of the days when socializing meant face-to-face interactions or when confrontations were handled in the backyard (at least the confrontations that I experienced as a child in the 1990’s.)
With approximately 1.5 billion monthly Facebook users around the globe, social media has become an integral part of our lives and is unavoidable (unless one lives under a rock.)
For all the good that social media has created with social movements and access to large amounts of information, there is a side of this new technology that is destroying what it means to be human. The level of narcissism in our society is at all-time highs in my humble opinion. Narcissism is defined as “excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.” To prove my point, scroll down on the Facebook profile pages of your friends, and count how many of your “friends” have profile pics of themselves in perfectly posed photos showing the “right amount” of cleavage, duck lipped faces, bathroom mirror shots of their six-packs, Sunday best bow-tie attires, and on and on.
Here’s another exercise for Facebook or Twitter account holders. Scroll down your news feed and count how many times you see images, videos, or posts that are incendiary in nature. Inappropriate comments about racial/ethnic minority groups, the LGBT community, immigrants, women, disabled folks, and the list goes on. Social Media has now made it OK to laugh at the expense of others and to hide behind comments that would not be welcome in offices, schools, or religious settings, and most public establishments. So the question now becomes – why do we feel the urge or need to spew hatred behind closed doors? The answer is simple; social media is wearing away at our empathy and human connectedness.
A friend recently opened up to me and shared that she takes roughly 30 selfies a day and picks the “best” one to post on her Instagram account. “My friends see me as happy but don’t see my low points. I have control of my Instagram self but not my actual self,” she explained. Another friend shared that she had to quit Facebook months ago because she could not bear to see her old high school friends get all the likes on their pictures while she had next to none. “Social Media is exhausting and depressing when everyone is posting their happy weddings, baby showers, and happy lives, while my life reflects none of that,” Melanie grimaced.
More recently, the horrific attacks in Paris were marked by the Facebook profile picture app campaign that allowed users to integrate the French flag with a profile picture of the users choosing. I was excited to see so many people from different walks of life embrace those affected by these attacks. While I’ll leave the political arguments about ISIS’ motivations for those that politic, it was shocking to see how other Facebook users demonized those that changed their pictures to show support for France. Statements like “half the people on Facebook cannot locate Paris” or “why should we care about Paris when we have problems in [FILL IN THE BLANK],” or “what about black lives or lives in the Middle East or Africa?” As valid as these points may be, was the weekend of the terror attacks in France the appropriate time to raise all other society ills? I’ll let you, the reader decide. The truth remains, however; social media provides quick access for unwarranted rhetoric to be shared. For this particular issue, it’s almost like an individual holding an AIDS awareness sign at a Breast Cancer rally event. It’s a good sign at the wrong event, and at the wrong time.
I can go on and on about the negatives of social media, but that would become depressing. However, it must be noted that technology created to make us more connected has now led to constant digital bullying, overt racism, and narcissist behavior that future generations will mock us for engaging in. To best sum up my argument, ask yourself how you feel after you look at your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram accounts? How do you feel when you scroll down the YouTube comments section of a video? Do you feel emotionally connected to others? Intellectually aroused? Or less hopeful about the human race?
Much love goes out to those that spend their time on their social media pages sharing positive and uplifting messages, and creating awareness and education on different societal issues that affect us all. So here’s my parting gift for those that care. After you read this article, put down the phone/ turn off the computer, take a look at those that you love and thank them for what they mean to you. Then take a walk outside, stop and appreciate the breeze, the birds flying and the trees, and just appreciate life for what it is and don’t post that feeling anywhere. Then, ask yourself how that feels versus the #DigitalDrama we see daily in social media.