You Are Now Connected
Oh, what the early stages of the Internet looked like along with the crackling and beeps of a dial-up connection. The Internet was the new frontier, a modern day manifest destiny, which came with all kinds of new solutions and unforeseen problems. As with all things, we often don’t see the effects until we’re too deep in it.
Social networks began as a means to connect peer groups and network in the virtual world. Rather than the constant cycling of lunch and coffee meet ups, you could conveniently connect to others concisely and quickly (no phone call required). It wasn’t just to reduce the expense of networking, but a way to stay in touch. Friends, family, acquaintances could now be just a click away.
Since the dawn of the early platforms, much has changed in the social space. Facebook has forced out most of the early platforms, but also paved the way for other models to succeed. For example, Twitter and Instagram were, at their base, a simplification of Facebook’s model. Twitter capitalized on the ‘status update’ concept and made fleeting thoughts, feelings, and ideas their focus. Instagram realized we’re visual creatures, and took to sharing photos as their main focus.
Optimizing For Distraction
Nowadays, everything from Linkedin to Snapchat is designed with our short attention spans in mind. For social media platforms to be successful, it’s important to have a gigantic user base. It’s even more imperative that they keep those users interacting with their products. Millions of dollars have been invested in how to effectively distract you. Just like the lights and colors in a casino are meant to keep you awake, these platforms are designed to keep you clicking and scrolling. Everything has been optimized to strip you of your time.
On top of that, as a society we find ourselves more isolated than ever. How can we be so connected, yet we’ve never been so alone? With every post and every story, our friends and family are constantly berating us with life’s highlights. We forget that social media has allowed us to curate our life; in turn, making us more depressed, anxious, and alone. Don’t think anythings wrong with it? Then why has Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, been openly on a mission to ‘fix’ Facebook? You know what they say about too much of a good thing…
We’ve abused access to information and others that we no longer rely on the relationships and interactions that were once required to find it. Think about it. In the past, how did you get the ‘best’ recipe for apple pie? You probably asked your parents or a family member who had a recipe, one most likely passed down generations. Then, you would have to learn how to gather the raw materials, prepare it and bake it. This one inquiry would essentially lead to all of these interactions and experiences with other humans. These days you just search it, bake it, and pin it (no personal interaction required).
The Life-Hack Dilemma
Fact is, this is nothing new. In a day in age where everyone wants the answer without learning the lesson, it’s not surprising to see how social media has created a societal shift. With everyone so busy trying to ‘life-hack’ around things, the cultural norm is to no longer question how we got the answer, so long as we get it. We have sacrificed human interaction and our capability to learn and replaced those values for the shallow experience of instant gratification.
Why learn how to be in a loving relationship and have sex? We have porn. Why learn about nutrition and it’s effects on your health? We have fast food and medication. Why workout and learn how to make yourself lean and fit? We have liposuction and steroids? Why learn math and any other school subjects? We have cellphone calculators and Google.
Capitalism, intended as an incubator for free-commerce, has turned us from a society of free-thinkers to a society of consumers. We are the living dead, the mass of distraction, and slaves to gluttony. Our stake is in efficiency and no effort in acquiring skills. We can now outsource so many aspects of our lives that many of us define living as having a pulse.
Reviving Life, Love, and Happiness
The fact is, we are living in irony. Social networks are making us less social and we’ve never had so much information and been so foolish. Never in the history of our species have we had such access to information, yet we use it as a means to learn less, do less, love less, and consume more. Instead we Google it, life-hack it, swipe right, and eat out. Worst case scenario: if your life gets ruined, you can always sue.
Truth is, our society needs either a shock to the heart or a punch in the face. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have delegated everything, which is why commerce is in the driver’s seat. When you exist only as a consumer, the thing’s you own end up owning you.
Industry wishes you to believe that the world is a scary, hateful, harmful place. The news bombards you with fear, advertisers make you feel helpless, and path for external validation distracts you. The odds are against us because we gave them to the house. How we spend our money and our time is how we cut them at the knees. If we demand change and hold steadfast, the tides of commerce will change to our call.
To our lessons, may we value their struggles and teachings. For our health, may we hold ourselves accountable and be persistent (no more excuses). To our fellow man, may we love each other as we are and engage with one another as human beings.
Be the change you wish to see in the world, or the world will change you instead.