Social Media: Great Leap Forward or Two Steps Back?
by Chad Lemoine
Is social media good for the future of humanity? It all depends on the user and the use.
You see, anything man has ever discovered or invented is to a degree both blessing and curse.
Social media is no different. People have connected with loved ones they thought they would never see again or, in some cases, never even knew existed. And many have developed or rekindled relationships with those loved ones through social media.
On the other hand, social media has also ended friendships, ended marriages, and even led to loss of life.
Now, it would be easy to blame social media’s existence for these negative outcomes and to give social media credit for the positive ones; but ultimately, social media is just a tool. The outcome of the use of the tool largely, if not almost entirely, depends on the motives and actions of the user.
It’s all about how you choose to use your time and who you choose to associate with.
Speaking from personal experience, I have met what I would now call some of my best friends in the world via social media just in the last couple of years. Many of those new friends are part of the Jianchor team without whose help, you would not even be reading this column.
So I’d like to first focus on the ways social media benefits those who use it for its optimal purposes. And also what those optimal purposes look like from my experience.
The evolution of communication
As human beings have evolved their modes of communication from grunts, noises, and gestures, different forms of communication have offered a similar dichotomy of positive and negative trajectories.
Pictorial drawings and the written word have given people the opportunity to express themselves in ways that were permanently recorded and allowed them to complete a thought or series of thoughts in ways the spoken word fell short as it allowed for interruption and distraction and relied on the memories of the listeners to store the information shared.
This was a great leap forward in the evolution of communication, but it also allowed for people to vandalize and to use the written word and pictures to humiliate people as well as to immortalize slander and propaganda. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that the written word was a negative development in the arc of human existence.
Later, the telephone ushered in a new era of communication with people now capable of expanding the reach of their communication without having to wait weeks for a letter. With the telephone, we could instantaneously communicate across the country and even spanning the globe.
For all the benefits of this next step in the evolutionary process, there were also new pathways to addiction and abuse. But again, I don’t hear anyone asking for the end to telephone communication. In fact, nearly everything the modern human does in the developed world is done with the latest iteration of the telephone in hand.
The current social media paradigm
One of the main differences between modern social media and its forebears is the ability to have complex discussions with total strangers in a public forum where you can interact with practically anyone in the world. We are no longer limited to connecting with family, friends, and a looser local or regional circle of acquaintances.
You can’t choose your family or the personalities in your locality. But as your universe expands, opportunities to connect with like-minded people increase as do opportunities to learn from new perspectives.
We are just beginning to learn the capabilities of this level of extended collaboration and growth—a powerful tool indeed.
But it is not without its negative potentialities. We have seen protracted verbal wars among the legions of keyboard warriors, which has turned a once lively arena for debate and discussion into peak cancel culture.
Foster connection and collaboration
That is why it is so important to tune out the noise and discord being sewn in the less productive reaches of the most popular platforms.
We tend to attract what we put out into the universe. We reap what we sow.
Want to see this demonstrated in real time? Spend an entire day or an entire week posting nothing but positive, uplifting, creative, and collaborative posts on at least one of your social media platforms and watch what type of energy you attract.
This is not to say that certain issues or events or personalities don’t deserve a special level of criticism and that we cannot find a productive voice in offering such criticism.
We clearly cannot thrive, however, if negativity dominates our conscious thought because it will begin to seep into our subconscious and make us bitter and resentful. That will only attract bitterness and resentment because misery loves company.
Resist the temptation to get sucked into the negative vortex of social media and instead anchor yourself to those positive connections that lead to your own personal growth and to the benefit of humanity.
After all, that’s what brought you here, right?
Big tech has engineered social media platforms to thrive on addiction and data collection
For all the benefits of social media, we must be wary of addiction, destructive conversation, and getting lost and wasting time. It’s understandable and beneficial to use social media for productive and healthy purposes, but we have to be careful to not let social media use us.
The responsibility falls on us to tread carefully and to set healthy limits to preserve our mental health and productivity. We must also actively protect our own privacy or at least be aware of its vulnerability.
On a certain level, the erosion of privacy is inevitable as we become more globally connected and spend more time connected to the technology that makes our day-to-day life both easier and more distracted.
Is what is on its way any different? Any better?
One of the most recent iterations introduced into the modern paradigm is Clubhouse, where people can interact in large live group conversations via the spoken word. Simply put, the benefit of having longform discussions that can bring nuanced perspectives together for growth and learning and collaboration on potential business and charity projects.
The negatives? Some of the conversations are filled with animosity and even some of the good ones can become an abyss of distraction from the real world and its responsibilities for hours on end.
So what is the answer?
Like any tool, social media can be a tremendous outlet and avenue for connection, collaboration, and growth, but it can also be a source of addiction, stress, and negativity.
The best advice is to be keenly aware of the intentions of the creators of these platforms and to be self-aware of what leads us to constructive and destructive behavior.
In the words of Bill S. Preston, Esq., “Be excellent to each other!“