Old enough to remember a world that was only connected by pen, paper & stamp, or rotary dial phones, I can assure the younger generations that “Social” Media has completely kicked the legs out from under meaningful and productive human relationships and interactions. A lengthy treatise lamenting the obliteration of human decency, kindness, and bi-directional respect, while tempting to pursue here, would be lost on the poor souls that can do no better than anonymous snark, feigned outrage, and disingenuous hyperbolic bloviation. A more productive approach to articulating the pros and cons of the double-edged sword which now defines our systems and methods of human interaction and discourse, it seems to me, would be to consider the ways in which this new human dynamic might yet be put to some positive, life-improving purpose.
So that we might end on a positive note, let’s start with the low-hanging fruit otherwise known as “Mean Tweets”, once made famous by a now-former American president. I won’t mention any names here, although it might be fun to kick up a few “hater” Millennial temper tantrums that inevitably ensue whenever he is mentioned, this isn’t about “he who won’t be named”… specifically. What deserves a closer look than the person, or his social media contributions, is the hysteria in response to them.
For those that may not be aware, Facebook first went live in 2004. For context, this was a month after George W. Bush began his second term, Amazon was 14, Google was 6, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t old enough to buy liquor, and Twitter was yet to be a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye. The idea of Facebook was pretty amazing for us Boomers, in large part because it enabled us to find people we had lost touch with over the decades and gave us an opportunity to exchange pictures of our respective grandchildren with old friends and loved ones.
As children always do, my Generation’s kids invaded Facebook and effectively turned the platform into a caricature of itself and its younger users. I know what you’re thinking, and yes – I said caricature; selfies, entries about where you’re eating or what you’re eating or who you are eating it with is nothing more than self-serving drivel and has little to do with sharing meaningful conversation with people for whom you care and with whom you wish to share some of your life story or the meaningful things that happen during the course of it.
Imagine, for a moment, that there was no internet and that your only means of communication was by way of a pen, some paper, a stamp & envelope, or a goddamn phone call… How much time and effort would you be willing to waste on these sorts of silly and meaningless things? And if you expand on this concept a little bit, ask yourselves what improvements reporters and journalists bring to our daily lives when they hyperventilate about this or that politician or public figure because they said or did something mean or nasty but otherwise has no real effect on what we are going to do with the rest of our day once we have been told these sorts of things.
I realize there is no getting the technology horse back in the barn at this point, most especially because the global population would have to have their cell phones and electronic gadgets surgically removed from their hands, but it begs the fair question: Are we a better species for some of these vanities and self-indulgences that have been invented to enrich a handful of people at the expense of the global population, or might we all be a little better off if we brought at least some small amount of decency and self-respect back into the Homo Sapien social dynamic?
Every single one of us that isn’t getting rich off of the addictions they have imposed on the more impressionable among us would do well to go outside, look your neighbor in the eye, and have a conversation about almost anything rather than letting random strangers… Sitting in front of their computers in their boxers while eating Twinkies… tells us what to think and how to feel about it.