The Degeneration of Social Media

In today's age of technology where smartphones get poked more than the fruits at your local fruit stall, social media has become a common term as well as a powerful tool for individuals and organisations alike.

Social media is defined by Wikipedia as "interactive, web-based platforms where individuals and communities create and exchange user-generated content." In simple terms, social media is a place where humans get to shout whatever they want for the entire cyber-world [or at least everyone they approve of] to see.

The introduction of mainstream social media has changed our very way of life. Platforms such as facebook, twitter and youtube have become an irreplaceable part of many individuals' daily life. Where we once deemed "Let's exchange phone numbers!" to be a major milestone in any friendship, the friendships today are started by "You have 1 new friend request".

While social media is without a doubt the most powerful tool humans have seen when it comes to sharing and spreading of information, as with all tools, it is only effective if used correctly. [Have you ever tried using the handle of a hammer to pound a nail into some wood?]

But the difference between social media and other tools is that social media is readily available to anyone and everyone who has a decent Internet connection. In Singapore and any other first-world countries, this means every single human in the country! So we now have billions of humans with access to a supertool. Hmmm... I wonder what can go wrong here... To quote good old Uncle Ben from Spiderman: "With great power, comes great responsibility"

Social media is a great way of spreading and sharing information as well as a good channel to have discussions with like-minded humans on topics of interest. But these valuable information make up only a small minority of the entire web of what we call social media these days. The rest of it is flooded with meaningless rants, unimportant updates and pictures of pets and food that has little or no value. Our social media platforms are heavily polluted by noise such as these.

I mean, what's the use of tweeting a picture of a cupcake with the words "Teabreak time with bestie!!" Nobody [except maybe your boss] cares about what time you are having your tea break, what you are eating or who you are having tea with.

Instead, why not tweet something more informative such as "Mmm. Delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes from 12 Cupcakes for tea!" By doing so, at least you are contributing to the social media circle by casting your vote of approval for this product, as well as informing other humans how to get their hands on it. THIS is useful information.

Social media has turned us into attention whores and entertainment junkies. A video loop of a pixelised cat flying through space to a somewhat irritating tune while shitting rainbows is deemed to be more valuable and successful than a well written analysis of the effects of global warming, just because it has been viewed and shared 90 million more times than the latter.

I guess this is all playing on our human instinct to want to be noticed by others. Coupled with the fact that the traditional media has been seeding the ideals in our head that your success is based on how famous and popular you are, humans these days all harbour hopes of becoming the next internet sensation, regardless of race, language or religion. Just like this guy:

This is what the social media of today has become: A sea of humans frantically jumping around in the social ocean holding up our handwritten "LOOK AT ME!" signboards, screaming and hoping that someone will take notice of us. We crave attention, be it good or bad. So long as there are people looking at us [even if it's for the wrong reasons], we feel high and mighty. In other words, humans associate success with the amount of attention they are getting.

Everyone on social media these days seem to be trying too hard to blog/tweet/photograph something in hopes that their contribution will go viral and make them famous. To me, I feel that is the wrong mindset. Going viral should not be the ultimate goal. Making a meaningful contribution should be the primary objective  of anything posted on social media. If your contribution happens to go viral, then it's a bonus. But apparently this is not how most of the humans [and kittens] on the Internet think.

On a personal note, I am not looking for hordes of fans who follow my every blog post or tweet. I just like voicing my views on topics of interest [which inadvertently may also happen to be current hot topics floating around the Internet]. If you don't like what I write about or find me boring, you are more then welcomed to click that big red X button on the top right corner of your screen.

Other than the addiction for attention, the generation of today are also turning into entertainment junkies. With ever-ready access to information and entertainment literally at our fingertips, we have become developed the habit of expecting to be entertained every single minute.

Be it whatsapp messages, sending tweets or updating facebook updates, or even shooting green pigs with red birds from a giant rubber band catapult, we are so obsessed with keeping ourselves entertained.

Take a typical meetup dinner session with friends for example. Many times, even in the midst of the conversation, humans these days have a natural instinct to whip out their smartphones once the conversation diverts to a topic that has little or no interest to them. Even worse, some humans [mostly of the skirt-wearing species] can even actively participate in the conversation while having their eyes and fingers glued to their smartphone screens.

Personally I find this very impolite as I believe that it is basic courtesy to give your full attention to the person you are talking to. This means maintaining eye contact and being observant of the other party's body language. How would you like it if I face my back to you throughout the entire conversation?

Here's a game you can play during these type of situations. I have personally tried it with some friends and the results were pretty good. Get everyone to stack their phones face down in the middle of the table. From that moment, nobody is allowed to reach for their phone until the end of the meetup. The first person who cracks under the pressure and removes his phone from the stack pays for the meal or buys everyone a drink.

You'll be surprised with the quality of the conversations that are generated when no one has their phones to distract them! Try it and you'll know what I mean!

So the next time you want to share something on social media, before you click that 'submit' button, I beg you to think whether or not it is going to be of any use to the rest of society or whether it is going to become another speck of dust lost in all the Internet garbage we have floating around today.

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