Social media has fostered a culture of false positivity.
Think about it. Very few people air their problems on Facebook. Largely our newsfeeds are overwhelmingly full of statuses about the great things we do, the cute faces our kids are making, our friends that are getting engaged or married, the ridiculous tricks our pets do…
These things are wonderful, certainly, but is that all we are as a society? Are we only the sum of our positive aspects?
There was a video that went around a few months ago portraying this phenomenon.
Go ahead. Watch it. I’ll wait.
Striking, right? Certainly makes you wonder.
Do we dare be more honest with each other? Are we willing to risk fewer likes and retweets, what social media experts call ‘engagement’, for a smidgen of vulnerability on our part?
And the question of engagement is another aspect that concerns me about social media. It’s what I call ‘slackathy’. Slacking + Empathy = Slackathy.
It’s so easy to pretend that we’re fostering real relationship by simply liking a status or picture. “Oh my goodness, she’s so right! Retweet.” “I’m going to let him know that I’m thinking about him by liking this status!”
But think about the last few things that you liked, or retweeted, or favorite, or repinned; what was your motivation for doing that? What were you hoping to convey to your friend through that action?
Largely, we like, retweet, or favorite things that we agree with. Or if it’s a really great message, or congratulations are warranted, we might comment.
(But we won’t comment too often, because then we get those annoying notifications whenever anyone else comments, and we just can’t have that cluttering up our feed.)
“You said something positive that I agree with, and I want to affirm that.”
That’s great. Again, no problem with that, in principle. But is that it? Are we substituting a split-second push of a button with real interaction?
I’m guilty of this too. No question. I’m just as at fault.
And the fact that you probably found this post via social media is an irony that is not lost on me.
But at what cost are we engaging in this slackathy?
This is not to say that social media is bad. We’re more connected now than ever. This is a great thing. We’re able to connect with friends and relatives more than half a world away. We’re able to read news and reports in real time from areas in struggle or conflict. Families can stay connected across the country. Parents can keep connected with children. Grandparents can keep up with their grandchildren. All wonderful things.
Maybe we could be a little bit more real with each other online.
Maybe we could all be a little bit more vulnerable.
Maybe that status prompts a text, instead of just a like.
Maybe that inspiring note leads to a phone call, instead of simply a retweet.
And maybe that text or call leads to coffee, or beer, or lunch, or a weekend visit.
Maybe our online interactions could lead to real one-on-one interactions.
Social media is not bad, but it shouldn’t replace substantial, physical, tangible encounters.
Reach out. Connect. Touch.