I always thought, quite romantically perhaps, that the idea of social media was to bring people together. It was almost like in a more inclusive, closer-knit world, the opportunities to make connections with other human beings were more plentiful. We were ‘stronger together’ and connected in more ways. I was wrong.
Social media is far from socially inclusive. It’s interesting to consider, but before the proliferation of social media platforms we were, as a people, as a species, more ‘social’. We spent time with people not hours glued to small screens. I, certainly, have found that I spend less time with real flesh-and-blood people these days. I’m certain many others are in a similar situation. Twitter is life for some people. To others Instagram likes are their main source of self-esteem. Others see their popularity purely in terms of the number of friends they have managed to acquire on Facebook. Twitter is not life. You’re beautiful regardless of what Instagram tells you. Facebook is irrelevant. You are not your follower count.
I am guilty of investing too much time and importance in these superficial mechanisms for gauging ones worth. ‘Do the internet people like me?’ has been and still is something which crosses my mind. I have written before about attention seeking on the internet. But just how important are these quantifiers really? They are not.
Look; I am not telling you that the relationships you have formed on Twitter et al are irrelevant. I have met, loved, and lost some great people on Twitter. Some people will, hopefully, be in my life forever – you know who you are. Others, forgotten as immediately as the connection was initially made. *click*
And that brings me to my next point. Yesterday one of my Twitter friends was bemoaning the loss of a ‘good friend’ who had blocked her. The connection which they made and which existed for weeks/months/years was destroyed immediately and with the click of a button. A link which she valued was severed by the other party as easily as a press of a button. And that is understandably devastating for some people. Another was decrying the demise of a relationship which had been one of mutual support through difficult times. When one party found their way out of the darkness, their need for that support diminished and the relationship faded away.
The worry is that human connections, or rather the human being attached to the connection; the living, breathing, feeling, hurting, person connected to that manifestation in the nirvana that is social media, has been rendered down to a commodity. Something to be used and then traded or cast away when no longer useful. To be seen as irrelevant, an annoyance, a hindrance. Like the game which has been completed or proven too difficult, to be uninstalled and deleted from ones life. I am guilty of treating people like this. When they are no longer entertaining or relevant to my life or circumstances I have dumped people. Real people. People who feel and hurt were seen as dalliances, temporary, transient.
Social media should bring people closer together but it seldom does. Instead it renders human connections down to tenuous digital links. It reduces people down to their @ or UserID and treats them as options to pick up, play with, and cast away when done. People should not be treated like that; and mechanisms which allow people to be seen as such are far from social.