The Oxymoron of Social Media

Social media: the name implies communication (defined by me as an exchange of ideas only possible between individuals who consider themselves equals) yet most of us seem to use it exclusively to sell ourselves – our products, our services, our ideas. There is neither space (i.e., post limits) or time (i.e., lifespan of the average post) to conduct in-depth meaningful exchange, and the medium itself gives us the illusion but not reality of personal interaction, if only due to its inability to effectively transmit sarcasm, irony, humor, or any other subtlety. It is as a result the drink that temporarily sates, but does not satisfy. If it refills our “social” meter (to use a concept from the SIMS), it does so only vaguely, like a sugar or caffeine high that leaves us more tired and alone than before we indulged.

The media is indeed the message: Keep your thoughts brief, your repartee sharp and lightning fast. Use emoticons to reduce a wide range of human emotions to a small set of easily recognized and irritatingly vague options that transcend the need to maintain (or even develop) language skills at all. Show solidarity by sharing – but not by sharing reasoned, thought-out, and well-spoken dialogue between equals (see “communication”, above), but by changing your screen icons to the same colors.

These all-too-public gatherings are not water cooler conversations (at worst) or coffee shop klatches (at best). They are sound bytes that convince us we’re watching the same movie – and each hearing excerpts of an assumed larger and shared soundtrack to our lives. This assumption gives us “brotherhood” without commitment, “sharing” without sacrifice, “community” without neighbors, “friends” without relationship.

How does that work, exactly?

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