With social media becoming more inseparable from our lives the way we communicate and the way others communicate with us is changing. Is this the new communication frontier or a alienation?
A father trying to catch up on his missed sports game on his tablet between wolfing down his dinner whilst the mothers scrolls through her emails and electronic itinerary as their child plays online games with his phone under the dinner table. This has become the new communication frontier in a world of social connectivity.
Whether it’s in the home, at a movie or lecture there’s always a device pleading like a toddler for just one more game or one more message. With smartphones, tablets and now smart watches you literally never have to be far from some form of social media keeping you constantly connected. But to what extent are we becoming more disengaged in reality as we delve deeper into the ever expanding world of social connectivity?
We find ourselves in an endless rainstorm of information bombarding us with tweets, shares and comments but how reliable is this information? All it takes is boredom and a blog to create content that can send any Tweeter chirping all over your Twitter feed about how life threatening your toothpaste could be. We all can remember at least one incident when a photo shopped image littered your feed with your “friends” posting warnings and final words as they prepared for the end, because Facebook said so. The stance has become the more shares equals the greater the validly right? WRONG! The relationships between ridiculousness and shares is often sadly proportional and can in cases cause hysteria while the truth lurks in the social media shadows.
Something that struck me recently was when a fellow pupil from my high school passed away and Facebook erupted with condolence messages. It became a frenzy of shares and likes and statuses. Social media communication has become so detached and voyeuristic that the moments of intimacy and compassion are being replaced by a new form of social entertainment.
The creation of apps as another form of entertainment has become such big business, with whatsapp being sold for $19-billion to Facebook. This lucrative industry is constantly churning out apps that literally help you do everything from making sure you sleep is adequate, to playing with your cat for you.
The danger of social media as pressure increases for a more socially connected communities is that communities will lose sight of the truth and real issues as they are overwhelmed with selected content to a point where all you know is what the Kardashians are wearing and who Taylor Swift is dating.
Recently social media has particularly been used to communicate messages of activism and mobilise the youth with movements like #FeesMustFall. But the question comes in is how many people are mobilised by this and how many just click like and share and consider the job done. This is known as “Slacktivism” and refers to people who want to appear to be part of a movement on social media without giving much of themselves to the cause beyond a few shared articles. The power of social media mobilisation also has a downside. It has the power to destroy individuals, families and communities. It’s as easy as a quick rant and a click of a button.
In this developing realm of social communication it is difficult if not impossible to completely plug out of this world. But what is possible is to find a balance between living in the real social space and the virtual whilst still remaining conscious of the differences between the two.