Came across this the other day. “There’s something troubling about Facebook. If you didn’t post it, it didn’t happen.” Facebook becomes an unconscious mental basecamp of what real life is.” Of course, this could apply equally to any one of a number of online social media applications, so Facebook isn’t necessarily being singled out, except perhaps for its ubiquity.
I go to a dinner party and the hostess has a really cute little kitten which I spend a few moments playing with. I then feel a subconscious desire to post the encounter on Facebook, since, if I don’t, it didn’t really happen. How bizarre. Friends ‘like’ it, and I am validated emotionally, I suppose. Such validation is completely meaningless, because experience can never be archived, preserved, or duplicated and a complex emotional thread cannot be conveyed digitally, except in static binary terms. A Facebook ‘like’ is hideously reductive in consequence.
Social media gives us a window, often opened wide, into our friends’ political beliefs and value systems, the home-turf of mob psychology. Online, most people don’t think, they simply react. If I disagree publicly, I get ‘unfriended’. So, if I wish to enjoy the company of other people, I have found it necessary to enjoy others for who they are, not what they believe or are passionate about, finding other points of common interest upon which to form an equitable relationship, regardless of political or religious persuasion. Since many of my online friends hold radically different views to my own, I thus make a conscious effort not to be drawn into unwinnable online sniping or troll baiting. Interactions can be managed by categorising people as “family” for whom a different set of social criteria applies, to “close friends”, geeky Facebook addicts like me, to “friends” whose opinions matter less to me. Perhaps Orwell was wrong about one thing. It is not that “Big Brother” is watching us, but perhaps the bigger danger is the collectivist mob that are now empowered by technology and play the part of “Big Brother” on a communal basis, by calling-out and blackballing anybody that offends their tastes or whose political colour differs from their own.
We are currently living in a period that might be called addictive digital fetishism. This basically means that we are pleased with ourselves by discovering new ways that digital gadgetry can infiltrate our lives for the sake of convenience and the pleasure receptors so engaged can only be satisfied by more of the same. A technophobe would say that, “technology is always bad.” The Orwellian technophile asserts that “technology is always good.” Their opponents see technology as too engrossing and dangerous, while ADFs are dismissive of danger and gorge themselves on the latest digital sweeties without questioning the technology’s intrinsic value or intrusiveness. People like me need to learn the skill of determined disengagement, so the next time I’m out with friends or family, my smartphone really ought to stay in my pocket, so I can emotionally connect with other people. I should taste the food instead of photographing it to show off to people who aren’t there. Disengagement from The Matrix is remarkably liberating.