I’ve always found the term “social media” to be a curious one.
Admittedly, if you break the word down into its respective body parts – “social” and “media” – it’s a word that makes perfect sense. Yet it’s not its pieces that make it a puzzle.
The term feels like a misnomer. It doesn’t feel right. I look at social media and I fail to see anything social about it.
Media is not an inherently social entity. From newspapers to Fox News, there is no social interaction actually involved.
We may feel as though we’re socially interacting. Like we’re connecting with that horoscope columnist who just really seems to “get” us, or the newscaster covering our sports team who seems to always agree with our opinion of the new head coach.
But we’re not.
We’re still sitting alone at the kitchen table, keeping our eyes on the newspaper while we hurriedly force down the coffee we burnt before work.
We’re still messily finishing that crossword on the train with the stranger in a brown suit next to us as our only companion. And no, it doesn’t count as social interaction because we asked him for a four-lettered word for a famous son of Chronos.
The media doesn’t want to interact with us. It wants us to read, to listen, and to watch their version of what’s happening all around you. It wants to tell us what perception of reality to accept.
Social media, in turn, has taken us one slippery step further down this path of human isolation.
Social media has stolen from us our innate love of society; we have never been more antisocial than we are this very moment.
There was a time, before bullet trains and water spraying jet packs (which are pretty awesome for the record), when our nearest neighbours were fifteen kilometres away and the fastest method of travelling was on horseback. Yet we called on each other weekly, if not daily, to fulfil that natural desire to truly interact with other human beings.
Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” – Aristotle, The Politics.
Fast forward to today, and I haven’t called on my neighbour since before the first Jurassic Park movie came out.
Social media has negatively affected every (formerly) social activity.
I see us capturing moments – beautiful sunrises and breathtaking full moons – through Instagram filters instead of capturing them with our eyes and keeping them in our souls.
We write those moments as Snapchat stories instead of writing them across our hearts, as part of our own stories that are constantly unfolding.
We use the check in button on Facebook to let our friends know where we are and what we’re doing, instead of checking in with a call or catching up with a visit.
We’ve mastered messaging with “abreeves” but forgotten how to carry a face-to-face conversation.
We live tweet sports events from our couch instead of taking a road trip to catch a live sporting event with some friends.
We text acquaintances while we sit around a table with our actual friends.
We don’t notice the love of our life next to us in the cafe because our eyes are down on our phone as we try to find love on Tinder. They walk in and out of our lives while we’re swiping right and left.
We’ve exchanged real friends for followers and lovers for “matches.”
And yet, don’t we think it’s a little strange that, in a world of nearly seven and a half billion (7 383 900 000) people, so many of us feel like we’re alone?
It’s because we are alone. Every social media platform offers an additional layer to a wall we’re building between ourselves and those around us. Another filter. More paint on our masks.
We’re given the means to limit and skew the images of ourselves that we put out there, and everyone else is doing the same. It becomes a terrifying idea to show people who we really are, so we don’t. Everyone tries to be like everyone else.
We’re creating a world where no one will truly know anyone.
I think that’s a tragic thing, because the greatest protectors of the beautiful uniqueness and natural individuality we possess as humans should be all of us, together.
Governments and, further back, religions have always feared and denounced the individual; the threat to the status quo.
And yet, individuals such as Copernicus, da Vinci, Tesla, Picasso, and Einstein did amazing things by questioning that same status quo, by letting their unique thoughts and feelings be their compass.
They didn’t follow tradition, and we celebrated them for it.
I’m afraid we’re starting to lose that. We’re falling into line.
Not because of fear or oppression – those things could never break our powerful spirit – but because of distraction.
The irony of it all is that I’m communicating this via an outlet that was only born in the age of social media, and sharing it on multiple social media platforms.
I think our advances in technology and our ability to connect with one another is astounding.
I’m thankful for Skype, Instagram, and other means of keeping in touch with all of those that I love and miss at home.
I just think it’s important that in our quest to be more connected, we don’t severe our connection to each other; that we don’t become the snake that eats its own tail.
Recognize each other. Appreciate someone when they do something differently, wear something strange, or embrace their authentic self in any way at all.
You’ll find people start encouraging you to do the same.
And, my God, that will be a beautiful thing.
Be good to each other,