When I was trying to figure out what to write for this post, my first instinct was to write something fictional and satirical.
I would’ve if I had more time to really sort out my thoughts on social media and technology in general (and if I didn’t feel brain dead from school).
I say I need to sort out my thoughts because there are so many things that are wrong with it, and I don’t which to tackle first.
When I think of the future of social media, I think of the episode of Black Mirror that we watched earlier this semester. Social media seems to take away our humanity in the way that it makes us care about numbers, ratings, appearances– the superficial unreality. Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Lacie, is one of the few people who is finally able to overcome her seemingly insane but not-too-exaggerated obsession with social media.
I would certainly hope that people my age and older– at least those who are well-educated and understand what social media is and how it uses people– would be able to step away from Facebook or Twitter or whatever and realize that they’re engaging in a completely unreal sphere when they’re on social media. In this way, I’d also like to think that they’d realize those likes, shares, and comments mean nothing.
However, like I mentioned in class, I don’t know that kids and young teenagers today can separate their digital unrealities and their actual, physical realities. For instance, I have two 13-year-old cousins who have had phones since they were probably six or seven. They’re both on Instagram and one is on Facebook. I worry about them because, in the first place, a lot of things in pop culture (i.e. low culture– I know I’m being a snob, but I can’t help it sometimes) are so superficial and artificial. (I’m mainly talking about things like the celebrity culture and glorification of people like the Kardashians and other reality television stars.) In the second place, I was a 13-year-old girl once, too, and I know how hard growing up can be– you want to be liked, you want cute boys to talk to you, and you want to look like you have everything. I would think social media could only compound growing pains and make you completely unaware of the fact that nothing on social media is real.
In class, we often talk about social media influencers and how to become one. I also know that, as far as freelancing and blogging is concerned, I need to build some kind of following, but I don’t want to because I don’t want to contribute to this monstrous social media.
I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you that, as an English major, I often struggle with and critique capitalism and consumerism. That’s not meant to be a political statement, and it doesn’t mean I think capitalism is all bad. However, it does create serious problems sometimes. With social media, the big problem is the brain hacking that we talked about in class. I don’t think I need to explain why. I will say, though, that this, again, takes away our humanity, and turns us into machines. Tristan Harris said, in the “60 Minutes” interview, that Silicon Valley is programming people. It doesn’t get any truer than that.
There also issues with the digital divide that we’re going to have to deal with at some point or another. In class, we saw that the U.S. is a technologically-advanced country compared to others. That’s not wrong, but there is a huge divide between not only classes but also urban and rural areas in the U.S. alone. As U.S. technology and social media continues to, presumably, expand, the divide between its citizens is going to grow and could potentially create a kind of class warfare. (This might seem a bit extremist, but I’m not so sure it is.)
Though social media has some troubling negative aspects, I think it would be a very dangerous thing to start monitoring how long people use it. Aside from young children’s parents, I don’t think anyone needs to be told when and/or how to use social media. Like Nora said in class, that’s a little too police state for comfort.
Maybe I read too much dystopian and apocalyptic fiction or think way too much (I don’t think that’s the case at all), but every single time people are monitored by some group or organization, bad things happen. If monitoring, like Herm or Bailey suggested became a thing, who would do the monitoring? Social media companies? The government? Even if social media companies were doing the monitoring, the government would be involved somehow.
Long story short, I don’t see social media going anywhere. I think it will only expand and become more and more intrusive. At the surface, social media is okay and maybe even good if it lets you connect with friends and family and share interests. However, if we don’t resist social media to some extent–by, at least, educating ourselves– the future is bright for technology and bleak for humanity.
By the way, when I get around to writing my satire, I’m going to name it “We’re All Machines.” I’ll be sure to send it to the whole class.
Image Credit: https://thefunnyplace.org/wallpapers/himanity-evolution-with-wallpaper/