I’ve been a cynic of social media for the past decade, but with hashtag babies and the media ‘toolbar’ growing yearly, I can’t help but wonder if my cynicism has become ignorance. The raging skeptic in me wants to hate it all, who cares that J-lo is tweeting that Cornflower is the new hot nail polish color. The reality; however, is that social media cannot be ignored, no matter how hard I might try.
The fact that we can post ‘what we are thinking’ on our wall and then instantly have it distributed to our 95 friends (I know, 95 friends is so pathetic) is astounding. I started Instagram 6 hours ago and I already have 12 followers, 26 likes, and 4 comments (representing 5 states spanning both coasts). I am awed at the speed at which information can travel via social networking, similar to the momentum of an airborne disease. This distribution of information could rapidly benefit society somehow, but apart from news data, I haven’t yet decided how. If anything, people are definitely connected, but connected in what context?
I think it’s in our nature to want to live with the herd, but at what expense? Do people want to blend or stand out? Do you follow or do you post? We take pictures of ourselves, use one of the standard filters from Instagram (personally I like Hudson the best), and amazingly our life has a wonderful blue hue to it. Mix a cool tone with a bit of drama, and instantly our life has meaning. Something naturally has to be wrong with this.
Civilization has always had ways of labeling its individuals, of forming groups. Just as molecules bind and repel another, so do humans. Are you a hipster or are you a yuppy? Do you post abstract selfie’s of your beard and pompadour or your 3 children at Disney?
Social media exacerbates our need to label ourselves in order to belong (and to keep others out). While we attempt to 'post' meaning in our lives, we can't help but succumb to a virulent compulsion for self worth. It has become a social norm to participate in the online manifestation of our better selves while the real one sits devoted to his or her phone screen. The big bad consumer machine doesn’t exist anymore, there’s nothing to rage against other than the sense of belonging I feel when someone ‘likes’ my new profile picture.