Why do we treat social media as if it came from another planet entirely? Why do we act as if it did not evolve from human wants and needs and isn’t only using a new technology to connect an already existing human society?
My social media profile is like me walking through the mall. I chose to visit that mall. It is private property that I have been allowed to visit and transact business on. How I present myself is completely up to me.
You remember hanging out at the mall, don’t you? It was pretty much a universal teenage activity for those of us that grew up in the 80’s. We’d wear our coolest outfits, gather with our friends, and enjoy the air-conditioned indoor space. We’d buy the latest clothes and gadgets, we’d eat in the food court with our friends, and make out in the darkness of the movie theater. Some of us, never me because I was always such a good kid, became a bit destructive and disruptive while we spent time there. Some of us even got thrown out by security when we decided to test the limits of conformity in a public space.
Social media only provides us with a similar experience with more people, more stores, and more “hangouts” and “make-out” spots. People aren’t any more fake on social media than they were at the mall. We have all put on a façade that attempts to portray who we really are. All social media does is make it easier for the more shy and quiet people to have a bigger voice. When you’re the lone Sci-Fi fan in your town, you tend to not wear your cape around the mall for fear of standing out a little too much. On the web, you find your tribe of weird and wear your cape, boots, and carry a scepter for the world to see. You are not alone. You are part of a group. And being part of a larger group equals safety to humans across time. There are positives and negatives to that of course, but it isn’t new or alien.
Ironically, it seems that it is more cool to hate social media and to proclaim that hate loudly on social media, like hating the commercialism of the mall but still going there because that’s where “1 Potato 2” is. I’ll admit openly, I love it. I have my favorite platform that I use most, even though it’s not perfect, just like the mall that doesn’t have a Rubio’s anymore. Overall, it has enhanced my life. I’ve kept in touch with people I would have lost in time. I’ve met new people that share my interests. I’ve learned about things I never would have heard about, let alone gotten to understand a better. And I’ve gotten to share my life with some of those people on a regular basis. It makes me happy.
There is one thing I would like to actually complain about though. We need to stop thinking that social media needs to be fair and unbiased. It is not a news source. It is not the place to get a liberal college education. It’s SOCIAL place. It’s a party and a marketplace combined. A place to hang out with friends, notice new things to spend our money on, and play. You don’t go to the mall to find out what’s really happening in the Middle East or who to vote for in the next election. You go there to socialize and meet friends. Yes, while your scrolling through your media feed, you’ll only see what you want to see. You’ll be among friends, hopefully, and those you have something in common with. It’s called “social” media, not news media. We should be treating it as such, in my opinion.
Just as when I’m at the mall, I have every right to shop and eat with who I want to shop and eat with. If you approach me and ask to sit at my table, I will be polite and either say yes or no. And to be socially acceptable, you are required to accept my yes and my no. We may start to talk and find out we have a lot in common and become friends, or we may find that we don’t like each other and go our separate ways. I don’t have to let everyone sit at my table, but you can if you want to. That’s the glory of socializing. It’s completely voluntary!
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the mall of social media. I’ve been having fun and putting many of my responsibilities to the side. I’ve been more interested in making new friends and playing with my old ones, than being productive. It’s been fun but I do need to get back to work. I’m not leaving it forever, I’m reprioritizing. I have work to do in this world. Life is not all fun and games you know!