By Brian McKay
It’s kind of crazy to be stating that social media is a failure. Our lives are pervaded by it. Facebook has a valuation of almost $500 billion. Mark Zuckerberg is one of the richest persons in the world because of it ($71.5 billion estimated, 5th richest in the world). Today it was announced that Donald Trump is worth $2 billion to Twitter as yet 15 tweets came out this morning from his account, many an abject embarrassment to our nation.
Social media is a must use for those of us in business. It has made new media outlets popular and destroyed others. If you don’t have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an Instagram account, you are failing the minimum requirements of online marketing. While teenagers are not embracing Facebook as much as their parents, a Snapchat account is a jr. high imperative. You’ve probably reconnected with friends from high school and college because of social media. It’s very likely you’ve made new friends that you’ve never met and probably been hit on by a potential suitor.
Yeah that sounds pretty successful, doesn’t it? It’s here to stay and will most likely become more and more pervasive in our lives. How long until we move to virtual reality social media with it plugged into our brains?
Believe it or not, it’s a total failure that is destroying the Internet and taking our society down with it.
A Harvard dropout has become obscenely rich while over a billion people proffer some of the most inane bullshit on the planet. Meme’s have more impact on the lives of many than actual life experience. The amount of people that get their news from memes has become astounding.
Fake news became a thing because of social media. In the 2016 election, Pizzagate became a thing believed by many. George Soros is now an even more nefarious figure trying to rule the ruled in the minds of many due to Facebook. An open forum exists for anti-vaxxers, climate deniers, conspiracy theorists and other flat-earthers to reaffirm one another. Fact checking isn’t necessary when everyone you know is telling you what you want to hear. Popularity of a post might be the new substitute for fact. There was never an echo chamber that existed on such a scale. That Facebook has recently found Russian entities paying to advertise fake news and micro targeted ads based on political philosophy, isn’t surprising in the least.
Is it any wonder that a picture of Trump saving two cats from the floods of hurricane Harvey has been propagated by his supporters as proof of his heroics on social media? What about him saving people from those same flood waters in a rescue boat. Never mind that his head is inserted on a body that clearly doesn’t have his propensity for KFC or that he is in a boat with a suit on, no life vest and that the Secret Service could never allow such presidential risks. Facts and logic are not a consideration. Even the knowledge that there is no way the guy would get himself dirty beyond lifting that one bucket and placing it on a driver’s lap, instead of in the back of the truck, was his one photo op of doing something to help. All of it goes out the door because everyone else posted it. Must be real right?
Social media has also replaced good mental health counseling as the help center of choice. No effort is required and no co-pay needed when one can post depression and suicidal intentions for worthless concern and bad advice. The help people really need is avoided as a five minute fix and insincere pandering are both readily available.
A psychologist I had used lamented that his group therapy sessions that had once been so popular had all but disappeared due to the advent of social media. It is very likely that your social media account is actually contributing to depression as we see the difference between the persona we feel the need to display and the actual lives we lead.
Another issue is increased stress of social media users. The idea of transference plays out in life when we are around a depressed person and find that depression also becoming part of our own reality. Imagine having a thousand friends of whom you are exposed to their life struggles or statements that make you question the human condition and our actual ability to behave in a manner conducive to survival and respect of one another. The outcome is stress while we incorporate those messages.
The use of social media can create ideas of social status and approach that are vastly different from real life. Using a keyboard is so completely different from actual conversation that the expectations of social interaction can become completely unrealistic. It isn’t a new concept that when something becomes perceived as easy when it should be difficult, the outcomes change and reaffirm bad behavior. Surely your female friends can detail numerous episodes of men sending inappropriate pictures while also experiencing the stress of seeing their married “friends” talk about their perfect married lives. Social media can create highly disproportionate stress on women for this reason alone.
Additional issues include productivity drain ($1 trillion a year in lost productivity when combined with email) and economic cost. Loss of the mental benefit of just letting go and looking for small moments. Reaffirmation of social roles in teenagers with, now quantifiable, benchmarks of success and the well known “social media bullying”. Body image is another area which has become an amplified and negatively impacts both teens and even older social media users.
The list of harms is tremendous. Benefits just don’t measure up. Unlike other addictions, this one is incredibly prolific but without the social stigma of alcohol or opiate usage. The US has constant discussions of an opioid epidemic but not a social media problem which might even be a contributing factor as many see the pretend lives of others and try to craft the same for themselves.
It has dumbed us down, stressed us out, fostered bad behavior, created an echo chamber, made us more depressed and born unrealistic social expectations.
Social media is a total failure and destructive to society. The problem is that we can’t bring ourselves to leave it. As technology advances and we move to a world without work, it might only get worse. Even after writing this, expect this article to be posted on Facebook and Twitter as soon as it is published.
Maybe I should go watch some clouds for a minute just to say I was in the real world today.