The Write Space and Time: Sept. 13
|The Write Space and Time|
Sept. 13, 2011 -- Social media has the world by the tail. Some people can't live without it. They are always plugged in. Some run from it like it's the plague. I subscribe to the latter theory, but I get it, I really do.
I understand how Twitter can drive business. When used as a marketing tool, it's ingenious. And if you are in the business of selling and you aren't using it, you're probably crazy, and behind.
I understand how Facebook can connect former high school classmates and provide information for families and friends facing medical crises. It connects hands that reach in a way we never dreamed possible. Social media is even being used by a church in Joplin that began salvaging photos after the horrific tornado. They post the pictures on line for the victims of the tragedy to peruse, and people -- people who lost everything -- are getting pieces of their pasts back. Without our intricate web of social connection, that could never have happened.
And we only have to look toward the political landscape of the world at large to see the impact of social media for the greater good. Many have credited Facebook and Twitter with the dismantling of oppressive regimes. Tyranny grows less frightening when the hyperbaric chamber of repression is pierced by air holes. If brave souls are able to link with other brave souls, a wave of courage can swell and literally change the world. We have watched it happen.
So I get it, I really, really do. But, I also see the potential destructiveness of such a medium. Utilization of social networking requires constant diligence on the part of the poster. And it requires a governor on the part of the follower as well. It can eat you up, overwhelm you, suck you in, trick your brain, rot your soul. If you let it, it can consume your world.
But the silent killer is Narcissism.
It didn't just germinate, though, this idea of self-importance that's currently running rampant. It's been around as long as people have. Unfortunately, however, it's been exacerbated by the mediums that allow instant and constant attention.
Anybody who has kids remembers when the "Mommy look at me!" and "Daddy, watch! Daddy watch!" stage arrived. Every little person goes through that tunnel of craving for acknowledgement and validation. My brother and I had a little cousin who used to say "Sherri, Sherri look!" and then she'd just freeze. "Jack, Jack look!" and then, she'd freeze again. It used to drive us insane. The annoyance became a family treasure -- one of those sayings that lives through the years and cracks you up at dinner when you're 45. But seriously, is it truly necessary for someone to watch you exist?
For little people who are becoming, the tunnel of self-absorption begs, pleads and requires them to get someone to watch. It's like an onlookers eyes make it -- whatever it is -- happen. And nothing is real unless someone else sees it or knows about it. It's kind of like the old tree falling in the forest deal that has always rubbed me like sandpaper. Does it make a sound? The tree in the forest, does it make a sound when it falls if no one is there to hear it? Uh, yes. Of course it makes a sound. Per definition, it makes a sound. Someone hearing it is gravy. The same is true when you take a nap, tweeters of the world. It's still a nap even if the world doesn't know about it.
My children grew past the "look at me stage" (can I say THANK HEAVENS, in all caps?) Grown ups couldn't look every time they moved; it was physically impossible. So they learned to do for the satisfaction of doing, or because something needed to get done, or because they wanted something, not for the acknowledgement of the action. But social media makes it possible now to look all the time. And it's becoming as if no one can move or think or live or breathe or be without someone watching.
I find that need for constant validation to be terrifying. What makes anyone think the world cares about their every thought, decision or move? No one is that important. It is simply not relevant to anyone's life that you just washed your car. And it becomes dangerous once you imagine that it might be. Therein lies the dark, dark hole that threatens the psyche of our next generation.
Most things teeter on the tenuous string that stretches between good and evil. The big and the little live there. Social media can light a candle in a dark corner of the world, but it can also blind you to your place there. Every person has to know in their bones that they matter. But they also have to know that they're not important. And there's a difference, a difference's that's getting harder and harder and harder to see.