Social media is everywhere.
It is as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe or the overpriced coffee we drink. But, so often when we talk about social media, we aren’t talking about the network on the platforms themselves, but the men who run them.
The phenomenon to restrict our expansive communicative nets to their creators and propagators is natural. We can no more separate the telephone from Alexander Bell or the light bulb from Thomas Edison. The inventor creates a product and that product shapes our perception of the inventor.
But, for the sake of looking at social media, it’s important to identify the utilitarian purpose a part from the profitability extracted from it by billion dollar companies.
Never at any prior point in human history have we all been so connected.
Over half of the 7 billion people on Earth are using social media. A few clicks on any social media platform and I can see events across the planet as well as people who are there. I can learn about cultures and ideas that I would have never come into contact with in my normal life.
I can learn about new philosophies and discover people like myself who have an obscure love of Simpsons’ trivia. As an older Millenial, I didn’t have social media until I was into my 20s. I know that a lot of awkward, lonely teenage years would’ve been less so had I had a group of people like me with which to commiserate.
But social media also stares at me. It proffers suggestions, associations, and links which reinforces my own bias or coerces me toward desired behavior (further engagement, soliciting their advertisers, etc.). The longer I stay plugged into these networks, the stronger and more confined the echo chamber I will occupy.
Even worse, the same tool which offers acceptance and affirmation can sow discord and insecurity. Noted psychologists have observed an astounding amount of reactions in our brain when we view a negative tweet.
Despite both these positives and negatives, the most central issue stems from the distance. Social media, despite it’s responsiveness and machine learning capability, is still a singular pursuit. There is a screen with which we engage, limiting the true “social” aspect and enforcing the “media” component.
What if there were a way to focus on the social connections of the platform while minimizing the negativity we associate with the genre?
It starts with stepping from behind the screen and into the actual world.
Every aspect of what we do is centered on driving connections and relationships in real life. It’s hard to maintain our own, specific reality when you’re engaging in a shared, in-the-moment experience with others at the same time in the exact same place. We wager that sharing a funny meme will always pale when compared to the harmony of sound from shared laughter.