A Shallow Dive into Deep Waters

Day 42. 106 pages, 48,176 words.

A wise person once said that social media is so distressing because what we see of everyone else (and what we share of ourselves) is a Greatest Hits reel, while the reality that sticks in our self-confidence is our Outtakes.

This philosophy occurred to me again recently, after a number of unconnected little random events reminded me of the tantalising and fascinating nature of this bizarre attempted virtual world of ours. A world we’ve cobbled together out of the ’80s and ’90s technology available to us at the time, and then just steadily and recklessly expanded and added to and complicated for a solid quarter of a century, all while growing older and having children and getting in wars and being screwed over by our governments and the wealthy ancients who own them.

Frankly, we should be relieved it works as well as it does, and stunned that it hasn’t turned into a surreal doublespeak nightmare of false information years before now. Of course, many would argue that’s what it’s always been, and it’s only the sheer volume of noobs these days making matters worse and shouting about it a lot.

Yes, social media is a strange mistress. There’s really nothing in her that we haven’t brought with us from older forms of communication. Only the scale and the complexity have changed, and they have changed faster and more massively than anyone was ready for.

We can now talk with more people all over the world than we’re psychologically equipped to do, and so naturally we limit that abundance to a manageable circle. And that circle will be indicative of who we are, and what we want to talk about. Bubble effect.

We can now manipulate information and images in ways that the old print journalists of the ’50s would have considered beyond science fiction[1], and so naturally we fall back on what feels true since our senses can no longer be trusted. And what we feel to be true will be indicative of who we are, and what we like to see. Confirmation bias.

[1] In fact, not just beyond science fiction, but beyond why-would-anyone-with-this-technology-even-do-that disbelief if you ask me. Not even in the pulpiest pulp would they have accepted the bullshit that is 2018.

I was also reminded of the case of Essena O’Neill, a social media celebrity who wasn’t actually born when I made my first forays onto the Internet (and I am by no means a trailblazer).

oneill

I also objectively don’t look as good in a T-shirt and yoga pants, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just ask her, she thinks yoga pants and abs are overrated.

This teenage Instagram model burned out, and re-captioned a bunch of her pictures to call out the fakeness, the stress, the pressures and the ludicrousness of the social media machine that was slowly but surely grinding her to dust. And she was eighteen years old. I can only admire her strength and clarity, even if her response was … well, the rash and reckless response of a teenager. But I can hardly fault it.

I heard about O’Neill’s story first from one of my real-life heroes, Jessica Grossman of Uncover Ostomy, and her response post that dealt with a lot of what I mention here. It was harsh in places, but for a reason. It spoke of a different philosophy behind social media, and a different genus – perhaps a whole different kingdom – of Internet denizen.

Yes, it’s terrifying, and it’s only going to get worse. Is the whole thing going to go away? No. Like a real-world environment, I can foresee a situation where it burns to the ground and leaves only a handful of survivors in its wake – in fact I’ve written about that exact thing on several occasions – but humanity isn’t just going to close this box and put it back on the shelf.

You can’t un-have a dream.

cover02

Oh yes, #IAmReal. A little too real, usually.

It’s been three years since Grossman’s little online battle with the other fronts of social media influencers[2], and nothing much has changed. There are more sophisticated forgeries and data farms and clickbait out there, and there is less privacy and intellectual safety than ever before, but technology-enabled human interaction is still fundamentally human. For better or – far more often, it sometimes seems – worse.

[2] Worth a look, for some of the alternate viewpoints presented. Also, good-looking Instagram girls and boys if you’re into that sort of thing. Speaking as someone who quite literally owes his life to social media, I hesitate to condemn it out of hand.

If what you struggle to feed into the system is an untruth or a misleading keyhole view of your life, then maybe you can’t complain when the harvest comes in. And if you feel it’s the sensible course to seal yourself away from this tottering Frankenstein’s Monster of communication as much as possible, then by all means do that. Maybe the world would be a slightly less shitty place if we all stopped trying to make other people do what we think is right for everyone.

Be aware, and be wary, and be safe. And by all means, take care how deep you dive.

There are humans down there in the dark.

 

– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while yadda yadda.

This entry was posted in Hatboy's Nuggets of Crispy-Fried Wisdom, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Shallow Dive into Deep Waters

  1. Very well said and I appreciate your including more of your perspective and justifications on the whole “how deep do you go (if at all)” question. Baring your soul is not easy, either. Perhaps it’s another reason I get uncomfortable diving deeply at all into social media!

    Also, I just have to say: “Wise? Pfaugh!”

    • stchucky says:

      Agreed (was that Cadsuane?). And obviously I was also thinking of you and some of our offline discussion of Facebook as I wrote this. But this is a much larger and more nebulousophical area, the whole concept of the Internet and social media in general. I think we can all agree that platforms come and go. And probably should.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s