The Social (Media) Experiment

There are repercussions, consequences, and outcomes of using our speech that can be far less than favorable to our agendas and desires. What we say these days can be instantly spread to larger and larger circles of people with perfect fidelity. On the internet, there is no ‘whisper down the lane’. What you say is captured forever, potentially misconstrued out of context, and bashed back over your head like a heavy club, or at times like a sharp ax. But all too often, your words will simply fade back into a sea of words. Voices that cannot be heard with the human ear. Voices that can provide little in the way of substance. Voices which are self-directed and self-interested. 

Those who choose their words, their timing and the conversation to enter into poorly, know this simple truth well. The internet isn’t a court of law, but you are being judged by what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. 

Social media, Facebook, in particular, has become (for me at least) a den of unhappy echoes. Voices that crowd in with opinions that are less than ‘fully baked’. If we are to use critical thinking or even just common sense, the words people put in tweets, in random posts, and in comments within posts, paint an ugly or stupid picture, and so end up characterizing and perhaps, in a sense, ‘typecasting’ a person’s image. How you are perceived online is how you bleed through into everyday life. 

We don’t get our words right when we speak out loud among people either, but usually, we can catch on to what we’re saying and correct ourselves. When you are more familiar with people, friends or even coworkers, for example,  they hear a great deal more than just your words. Facial expression, body posture, and movements all add that missing depth to what it is you’re attempting to communicate.

Have you noticed, for example, that everyone is usually just trying to make everyone else laugh? We are using our humor as a species to deflect and ease the inordinate pressures of a modern world we can barely keep up with and weren’t designed by nature to endure on a permanent basis. Yet, we have created this new world and we are constantly striving to adjust to its rapid shifts and changes.  

Now, to be perfectly clear, I’m not here to make any of this sound like its a bad thing. People are social creatures. We are all familiar with the argument that much is lost in translation through the written word alone when it comes to socializing ‘virtually’. And yet, virtual is all we have. If you don’t believe me, look up the word virtual in full, and you’ll see I’m technically correct.

This same argument about words not communicating the full import can be turned to media like books. If an author/writer isn’t entirely sure of herself, what she wants to say, how she intends to create a sense of context, how to describe body language that goes with dialogue, then so much really is lost in translation. Those books often end up with poor reviews.  We’re not all writers. Especially on social media. The war is of words, and if you’re not especially skilled in using them, you will waste your voice to a cacophonous sea which makes no audible noise.

While you may now be thinking to yourself how pointless this all is, just realize that life could also be seen that way. We’re here one day and gone the next. All our carefully laid plans to acquire materials and goods become forfeit when its over. Similarly, when our words meet blindered eyes and stuffed ears, we are a garbled distraction for a few moments at best.

If you’re a writer, someone who is doing their best to communicate, then really go all out. Use social media, your blog/website, as a way to really take your time and articulate your perspective, your vision, you understanding. Make it clear that when someone reads your words, they are reading your mind, your heart, your sense of being. It will at least give you more connection to others. 

I wrote the following in my journal today…

I think we take for granted the ‘relationships’ we have online nowadays. These are mostly false relationships because the words on a screen can only describe as many dimensions as we can (or are willing to) absorb.

Video games provide a similar allure to online social media sites like twitter and Facebook. It’s glamour wares off when people stop listening to us. We are indeed social creatures, but that doesn’t mean are socializing can happen only in the virtual realm. There is something powerful about seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and generally being around another human being. Smell, or the olfactory sense, is often subtle, but what most people forget is the pheromones we give off. These don’t have to have a sexual affect on our being, but they are psychosomatic. We get a pleasant feeling around some people because of this subtle sense.

In the same way, the way a person looks, and the way they speak, what we hear when they talk, make a funny voice, make a silly face—these are all part of the social aspect that is completely missing from the virtual atmosphere. No amount of emojis can truly suffice or supplant the range of body language that we get to imbibe from our real life friends through the written word alone.

Especially because these written words are often inarticulate, ill timed (often) and constant. One thing I didn’t mention is that we can also appreciate the silence or the gaps between what we say out loud and how we spend time with someone in person. There’s an intimacy and an immediacy absolutely missing from the virtual environment that no amount of rationalizing can replace or explain away. 

Video games are false and provide a false sense of accomplishment. This was one reason of many I quit playing them ages ago. It seems like you have completed your objective until you realize that nothing in your life has made any change. To seek that sense of change you return to a video game (herein lies the addictive factor) until/unless your pre-frontal cortex kicks in and reminds you that there are actual accomplishments to be made in the world around you with real results: cleaning your room, going to work and earning your money, saving up for travel experiences, creating artwork in some form or other—these become items that can be seen and shared by others. If you’ve gone to another country, your own inner psyche gets broadened by the experience and you take on new character traits and can share that with…your friends.

Looking at a picture someone took is great, but it almost always leaves you feeling like you wish you had been there to see it for yourself. And that’s the great thing about a picture, it can evoke a feeling, inspire an action, or repel you in some fundamental way. Often the pictures we see of smiling happy people on facebook or memes are fun, but short lived ‘thrills’. All of these things serve to drive us away from the moment. A comedian famously said that the present moment sucks, and that’s why you want to get away from it with your phone, a movie, a video game—anything to not actually ‘be here’. So we have to look at ‘why here’ sucks so much. What is it about life that we can’t stand?

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now myself. I’m not sure. I don’t know what it is about life that is so incredibly boring and bothersome. I think there’s an acute awareness that inactivity is a total submission to the straightforward movement unto one’s personal physical and eventual absence from this planet. In the end, it reduces down to a fear of death. A fear of ‘not living’. And so we have to cram absolutely every possible thing into our daily life in order to be or feel ‘ok’.

However, back to social media, cramming in time for this platform leaves us feeling a mixture of emotions. Because it’s life condensed onto a screen, you’re seeing everything at once, and not most of what you want to see. Instead you end up seeing what the company has decided was a good filter for you. And this helps nothing at all. Think about it for a moment: you visit facebook, you see a few posts you agree with, a few you could have thought of yourself, a few that ask for people’s opinions (which you may or may not have been in the mood to participate in), and one or two old memes along with a smattering of ads you couldn’t care less about.

There’s a lot more to say here, but there are other projects that need my attention and time. What do you think? Even if Facebook and Twitter have connected you to friends and family from afar, how often can you keep up with them? If you’re young and have a busy career life, how do you manage personal projects, immediate family time, and time with your friends you can spend time in the same room with, sans computer? If you’re retired maybe the social media experiment is a boon for you. Everyone’s different. These are just my musings.

If you have a different idea I’d love to hear it in the comments section below.

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