Download: Is Social Media Superficial?
As of late, I cant help but notice a lack of depth in social media interactions, which upon close inspection, can be characterised as superficial. Without a doubt, social media has a lot of advantages, among which the most obvious are: improved worldwide connectivity in real time, a consolidation of shared interests, as well as, increased news cycle speed, and improved business connectivity.
Our social media accounts, be it Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and the many other similar networks, keep us in touch with our peers, and the world at large. Whilst it is great basking in this warm sunshine of human connectivity and interaction, it is healthy to take pause, and weigh the value of those interactions, and ask whether social media in general, is superficial. And there are several considerations where it is tempting to think that it is.
There is a tendency, for social media to encourage the creation of personas, by its users that may not be a true reflection of the person’s real life. We tend to post the positive aspects of our lives on social media, sometimes embellished to a large extent, and rarely the negative side of life.
Often, our friends and connections on these platforms, will echo our sentiments in perpetuating these unrealistic portrayals, and we rarely get critical feedback, about what we post. In the interest of being sensitive to our feelings, our peers may not provide constructive criticism, regarding our posts, which leads us to form a self-created distorted image of ourselves, that gets in the way of realistic personal introspection.
In social media, just like in real life, there are some individuals who have more social capital than others. And their conversations appear to carry more weight. Such celebrities and influencers are in most cases, “worshipped”, to an extent that people will participate in their conversations for the sake of fitting in, and wanting to feel important, even when the conversation may not have merit, or when the celebrity individual has nothing of value to contribute.
Whilst there is no apparent harm in hero worship in itself, it has a potential to perpetuate conversations, merely on fumes of status and drown out the voices of other participants in the social network, especially when they have something worthwhile to contribute.
There is such a high drive to be popular on social media, to the extent that most people will post almost anything, in a bid to gain their one minute of fame in the limelight. There is almost a tangible anticipation for likes and shares, as everyone clicks the post button. Myself included.
Even the commenting that goes on in the posts, is rarely conversationalist, but is instead a bid to raise one’s voice, amidst the sea of other comments. It also seems that often, the posts are of our picture-perfect moments, in our photographs, or selfies (without flaws of course). Or bragging by letting the world know you just acquired a new fancy car.
I believe social media would prove to be more valuable, if we strive to contribute posts, that will positively influence the lives of others, in some way.
On first consideration, only associating with people with whom you have common interests seems like a great idea. Except for one thing. It robs you of variety. They say variety is the spice of life, and it falls to reason, that if you only associate with people with whom you have common ideas and values, you deny yourself the better ability to grow as an individual.
I believe we grow as individuals when we challenge ourselves, move out of our comfort zones and experience new ways of looking at the world. Not to say that we should not associate with people of common values and interests, but that it is equally important, to seek out different opinions and views, to balance out our world-view.
Social media has redefined the mode of social interactions in our lives. We no longer do a lot of things in person. Especially in the face of chat and instant messaging. As a result, this has led to decreased face to face communication. I believe face to face communication, is vital to convey crucial aspects of communication.
To make up for this, social media has evolved phrases and acronyms to convey emotional responses such as LOL, or even ha-ha-ha, which are supposed to pass for laughter. The truth of the matter is that these phrases, and acronyms fall far too short, to convey the emotional depth of face to face interaction, and are superficial in the truest sense. Because the sound of laughter itself is what makes it a greater emotional experience.
Decreased face to face communication, also results in a lack of emotional connection amongst people. Social media makes it easier for people to do things, that would be harder to do in real life, such as pour out your soul to someone when you feel hurt, or expressing love by expressing yourself in a text message.
This causes such a huge emotional disconnect, which can only be fully conveyed in the facial expressions, and actions when communicating in person. This emotional disconnect, also appears when people want to inflict emotional harm on others, such as in the case of cyber bullies, where it is easier for them to bully someone via social media, when they are detached from the victim’s full emotional reaction.
Judging by the amount of time I used to spend online, on social media, keeping up to date with all the conversations, and by looking at how my friends and associates interact with social media, I can’t help but wonder, whether this time would be better spent.
For most people, social media seems to almost border on being an addiction, where they cannot get away. Be it at work or in their free time. Paying close attention to the conversations most people are engaged in on social media, it can be objectively said that they are of little, if any intellectual, nor emotional value.
Perhaps the answer, is to consume social media in moderation, and reserve more of our time being productive in real life. It should seem that, sharing and laughing at memes all day should not count as productively spending one’s time.
There is no doubt in my mind that social media has intrinsic value in our daily lives. We use it to engage socially, even in business, with people both near and far. I however have doubts in the way most of us use this rich resource. I believe it could become less superficial in the way we use it, if only we could change our mindset.
Instead of simply having conversations just for the sake of it, or for popularity’s sake, why not think twice about contributing something that will be helpful, or worthwhile to someone’s day, or something that will improve your personal and professional welfare.
We should consciously seek to have a positive impact in our social networks and circles. Instead of always seeking views and opinions that confirm and conform to our own, why not seek out alternative views and opinions, to broaden our world-view.
Instead of using social media as a substitute for social interaction in real life, why not use it to compliment our lives, and seek emotional connections. Perhaps most importantly, why not use social media in moderation, rather than let it consume our lives.
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