As a podcaster, and someone who wants to build a successful brand, I’m often torn by the necessary evil of immersing myself in social media. In the past two decades, social networking platforms for many have transformed from fledgling specialized message boards to a phenomenon so intertwined with the human psyche that many in the millennial generation find checking their notifications as natural and frequent as breathing. The advent of this new era of super-connection is largely due to the creation of smartphones, your technological “Swiss Army knife” which bestows all kinds of convenience upon it’s users.
Part of the modern standard for creating a brand is utilizing the free marketing and networking opportunities via these social media sites, and yet I can’t help but wonder if the return outweighs the cost of such endeavors.
I’ve written previously about politics, and our rapidly diminishing ability to create legitimate dialogues in the political sphere, and this lack of ability to create meaningful discussions is only amplified once people are safe behind their screens at home. Twitter is a platform through which I have contacted many great guests for the show, people whose content I greatly admire and have been grateful to have on the show…and yet Twitter is also one of the most exhausting feeds to read when all of my social media accounts are taken into perspective.
The over the top bravado of political figureheads, the toxic commenting by avatar emboldened shit-posters, the drama and anger with no productive outcome gets so, incredibly old. I’ve noticed that social platforms, while they connect us in ways which were previously inconceivable to humanity, are also some of the most prominent offenders when it comes to isolationism and political partisanship in our current culture.
I’ve found that many people who sit down in person, and have conversations as human beings tend to seek commonality. They tend to find what makes them similar because proximity allows us to read their expressions and access this crazy thing called empathy, or the ability to place yourself in another’s situation, if you will. Social media removes these common courtesies which are observed instinctively in normal face-to-face human interactions. They allow people to adopt personas which are rooted in ignorance, to say things they’d never say if they actually encountered another individual in person.
An example of this may be when conservatives ignorantly take complex issues like transgenderism and caricature them as confused men who just want to wear dresses without even bothering to ask a trans person to share their story with them in real life.
Another example may be self proclaimed “liberals” denouncing everything that isn’t to their liking “white supremacy” and branding all those who dissent with that label.
I often wonder about this degeneration of dialogue on social sharing sites and find myself questioning if it was inevitable. Were we doomed to fail from the start? Was the vast marketplace of ideas which was discovered as the internet took my generation by storm predestined to be tainted by the quest for “likes”, viral videos, and a need to validate one’s identity by “owning” one’s adversaries?
How does this sort of culture benefit anyone given the fact that away from the sanctuaries of our screens we actually have to coexist with the same people we lambasted for being stupid, moronic, ignorant, bigoted, etc. yesterday on our social media accounts?
I say this, not as someone who is immune, but as someone who has been seduced by the daily outrage cycle in the past. I’ve walked away from heated exchanges, with people I barely know, which have consumed hours of my day only to ask myself, “What good was all that emotional effort and time wasted being angry, or frustrated?”.
There is also an equally detrimental state of social networking use that I’ve observed, which is that it creates in some people a perpetual state of avoidance or escapism. Those who aren’t lured into the visceral, emotion-based, argumentative nature of social media may find themselves in the extreme opposite scenario being unconcerned in the slightest about political matters which affect their daily lives. Almost as if posting nothing but sheer frivolity all day, every day will dismiss the fact that our country right now is ripping itself apart from the inside.
I can’t help but wonder if all the time spent creating the “perfect profile” that showcases a custom built identity to both friends an acquaintances, couldn’t be better spent actually talking about things that matter like poverty and hunger, our horrible foreign policy, our rapidly depreciating monetary value and its implication for future generations…but that’s ok, let’s post about how drunk we got last night, or how irritated we are with our coworkers, or the stupid mundane shit we do daily that no one really needs to know, but everyone clicks like for because it’s “relatable”.
Again, I don’t say this as someone who’s above the escapist approach to social media use. I enjoy memes and jokes, I’ve shared pictures of my dinner when on a date with my wife, or posted stupid shit about my kids that no one really cares about…
So as a podcaster, and as someone who is actively trying to establish a brand and using social media to accomplish this, how should I react to these states of being which many have adopted in their online lives?
I guess what I’m saying about both of these approaches, in the lives of millennials which are continually connected to giant internet databases, is that most of what we do when it comes to social media isn’t creating any sort of tangible value. Sure, it keeps us busy most days, but it isn’t creating a better world. There’s no substance to most things we share on our social media accounts, whether you’re a person who has to savagely “own” someone, or someone who shares stupid thirty second videos of stupid people doing stupid stuff to get a laugh.
For much of ancient human history the primary struggle for people was to acquire adequate food and protection necessary to survive, then civilizations began to form and there was a struggle to break free from the consolidation of power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, in our current day we don’t have to worry about these basic things. We have technology and immense potential to create something better. We have the means through this vast, interconnected network to share genuinely good ideas with each other, to learn about those who are different than ourselves and to create conversations that matter and add value to the human experience.
We are wasting that potential in our prosperity and boredom.
My challenge to you, if you’ve stuck with me this far and hear where I’m coming from, is to stop playing the social media game as it’s being played currently. I encourage those who read this to create a better kind of conversation and to seek to add value and substance in the sea of generic noise that we’re immersed in every day.
Simply put: Don’t simply accept things the way they are, but adapt them to be what you wish them to be.