Yet this distance, all those abysses unabridged and then unabridgeable by radio, television, cheap travel and the rest, was not wholly bad. People knew less of each other, perhaps, but they felt more free of each other, and so were more individual. The entire world was not for them only a push or a switch away. Strangers were strange, and sometimes with an exciting, beautiful strangeness. It may be better for humanity that we should communicate more and more. But I am a heretic, I think our ancestors’ isolation was like the greater space they enjoyed; it can only be envied. The world is only too literally too much with us now. – John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Whatsoever is delighted by solitude, is either a wild beast or a god. -Aristotle, Politics
We understand our constantly panicked state, our fragmentary response to a fragmented world, our need to absorb everything and digest nothing, our need to reveal everything and express nothing, our fear that if we do not evolve with the times, we will be held back, worse, we will die. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is as true now as it was 150 years ago, when it was first expressed. The condition for being fit enough to survive was adaptability, and that entails being true to what is now, than what may have been true once, but is distant, romantic and most of all, dead. There is no a-social media, only pre-social media. Social media is not a part of our lives, it is our lives.
But all this has been said before. Some enjoy it, some partake out of necessity, some reject it, some are rejected by it, some do it when it suits them. It’s not like having a voter’s card or a citizenship status – something you have to have. Then why is it that most people who complain about it are unwilling participants, instead of confident dismissers? Is it because they are more aware of the consequences than those who more fully enjoy it? Do they find it harder to adapt? Are they, by nature, more suspicious? Or are they plain old cranks, and in this case hypocrites, who have to have a problem with everything?
I think it comes down to one thing: relationships. Of all kinds, with other people as well as yourself. No matter how wholeheartedly you enjoy social media or dismiss it, it has affected the quality of your relationships, for the worse. Hold that thought about long-distance video-chatting on Skype and Whatsapp with your loved ones for a moment, because I am talking about your everyday, closer-at-home relationships for now. Think about it. The act of writing something down, especially something that you genuinely feel, something that makes you vulnerable even if it is a more violent emotion like anger, would make you think several times before sending it off for at least one other person to see. Back in the day, there were many unsent letters, or letters that had several drafts, because people used writing as a way of putting their thoughts across in a manner that they supposed was effective. But now, when we have a keyboard at our fingertips constantly, we type and hit ‘send’ first and regret after we’ve sent it out in irredeemable form. We were always more spontaneous in verbal communication, but we had writing to help us communicate better, something we have evolved to lose.
But hey, if we’ve become adapted to it, it must have its benefits. Perhaps, we accept all around that everybody does embarrassing things on their social media, quite often, and it makes us more vulnerable and more human, which in turn should make us more acceptable. I agree, as long as it provides us with more qualitative relationships. Not quantitative, like the number of your Facebook friends. But then again, isn’t having more friends more scientifically sound than having better friends? It is, as long as you are well-connected enough to have people do things for you with their specific skills-set, just as you do the same for them. Because, that’s what friends are for, right?
Therefore, as far as human evolution is concerned, social media is completely logical. Sure, there is a cheapness in communication, but there is more of it. You need that 80% of trash Whatsapp and Facebook messages and updates to look at constantly, because that’s the price you pay for the 20% meaningful information. There is nothing wrong when the bulk of your in-person conversation is about what you’ve already communicated to each other via social media, because that is what you’ve been doing with your time anyway. Most of all, we’ve adapted ourselves to documenting moments of our lives we consider important instead of experiencing it (or looking at others’ documents, in lieu of experiencing ours) because it makes us feel less alone, less scared, than having the experience for it’s own pleasure. Because we’re not gods or wild animals, we do what we need in order to be accepted by others of our tribe. Which is doing the same as everyone else.
Do you think we need social media to survive?
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