It is said that the age of social media has brought about many great things. It has brought about revolutions. Gaddafi fell after calls on the 4th February 2011 for a day of protest on 17th February circulated on social media. These calls were answered through protests and eventually, military action. Social media, in the end, was praised for bringing down a tyrannical leader where before his reign would have continued unabated.
However, outside of Middle Eastern civil wars and injustices is the more biological effect social media outlets, in particular Facebook, have had on our daily lives. What we appear to see on Facebook it seems, determines our state of mind and how we feel to a great extent. We can feel happy or sad on the basis of one or two posts. This is, in the great context of things, ridiculous especially given that the bulk of posts are normally rather benign idiocies like “Kittens that look like Hitler” to name a theme. Nevertheless, I wish to discuss the darker side of social media. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of suicides because of social media. Since more and more young people are venturing onto the Net to see what their friends are doing, they’re constantly being bombarded by photo uploads of their friend’s activities causing great distress and affecting their mental health.
It is of course natural, we’re all inherently curious as human beings. But it’s when we become reliant on this curiosity that problems start to develop. As for those without many “friends” seeing others posting pictures of themselves partying with mutual friends is, to say the least, damaging. We wake up and see all that happiness of “that night” and the stomach churns as the heart craves for what they missed to the extent that one feels rather isolated. An island that no-one wants to visit in the summer, an empty shell of humanity thinking “Where did they all go? They’ve abandoned me….” etcetera, etcetera. This means, as a result that some feel they have nowhere to go and instead of abandoning Facebook, they abandon this mortal coil altogether.
We are less patient as human beings than we were. We have too much access to everyone else. I personally couldn’t give a hoot if my colleagues have gone to a Japanese Cartoon Convention, (to me they are merely absurd mechanisations of a crazed mind in an act of sheer, sharply honed illusion). Nor could I give a second to their frankly, hypocritical emotional state as they splash it over the internet (I will admit though that I myself have been guilty of this a few times in the past).
To quote Charlie Chaplin “We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind”.
For me this quote beautifully illustrates the modern effect of Facebook in particular. The lonely are left in want as people behind the safety of computer screens can cleverly be “hard and unkind” as they twist a web to torture those with trust in themselves, eventually breaking them. Facebook, the focus of this article, has admitted to manipulating the Newsfeeds of its users to affect how they feel and to me this just seems wrong, plain wrong to manipulate the minds of people like this. But this didn’t just happen once, it happens every single day to all of us and it seems now that we’re a generation whose thoughts online are not our own anymore. We are herded like cattle and the herders are social networks using our newsfeeds as though we were Collie dogs to put us into pens of happy, sad, depressed, ecstatic and thoughtful. I don’t want to be told how or what to feel. I just want to be me. I don’t want Social Media to be the foundation of my emotional state and neither, probably, do most of the lonely teenagers out there who have been tortured by the smiling faces of people who we barely know anymore.
However reader, do not see this as a call for social media to be taken down, but more as a warning to those who rely on it, that they need not rely on the activities of others to feel a certain way. After all, as Oscar Wilde once said “be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.