Is the age of hyper-narcissism and social media addiction turning us all into self-obsessed, attention-challenged zombies?
Can we really call it social media if we’re ignoring our friends, partners and everyone around us to swap gossip, videos and memes with virtual strangers we’ve never met?
If an actual vampire (or zombie) invaded our homes and attempted to separate us from our blood or brains, we’d probably have one or two objections (the first probably being they don’t actually exist). But when the parasitic monsters are invisible and we welcome them in, what chance do we have to keep ourselves safe? Like a tick or a vampire bat, they numb us while they go about their dirty work. Maybe it’s us who are the real suckers?
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The vampire-zombies – including massive corporations like Google and Facebook – are using knowledge gleaned from psychology and the world of gambling to hook us on this digital crack. And they combine it with clever technology to steal huge amounts of our time, attention and data and sell it for obscene profits. They are like friendly uncles who keep you amused, while secretly emptying your safe, picking your pockets and stealing all your private info.
Is social media (SM) contributing to anxiety, depression, unhappiness and a general dumbing-down of the population, as some claim? There is some evidence to suggest it is and numerous commentators have raised concerns about the potential problems associated with these ubiquitous platforms.
Cal Newport is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and he makes a compelling case for quitting social media in favour of what he calls deep work and the need for focused attention.
Allison Graham in another highly entertaining TED talk points out that the numbers of close friends we have has plummeted in recent years, and texting-while-driving is now the number one cause of death of American teenagers.
Of course every new advance since the printing press has been decried as a veritable tool of Satan, responsible for the end of civilisation as we know it. Why is SM any different?
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I think the answer lies in how and why it has invaded our lives and the ends to which it is being used. No other medium in history had the ability to expose and share our personal lives in this way. What we watch, read, buy and do online is logged and shared with anyone who is willing to pay. No other medium has been so specifically designed to hook us and keep us addicted. It is crystal meth for the masses, only far more expensive.
It is not just our data, time and money that the vampire-zombies are after. They want complete slavish devotion to their products and the advertisers that support them. They are after your digital soul.
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In the interests of balance it would be unfair not to mention the benefits of SM, although the list of genuinely useful and life-enhancing aspects are a little harder to pin down. Used wisely it can reduce isolation and help people to connect in positive ways. The promotion of international charities and smaller NGOs is also one of the more positive ways SM is being used for good. And writers, designers, musicians and small businesses can more effectively promote their wares to a larger potential audience.
But too often it is simply an opportunity for corporations (and airhead celebrities) to sell shit to people they don’t really need, in ever larger quantities. Or for show-offs to display their arses / six-packs, fancy meals or a luxury trips to exotic destinations.
It can even become a platform for a person to demonstrate their supreme ignorance and narcissism while (inexplicably) serving as the leader of a superpower..
In small doses, SM may not be such a cause for concern (‘The dose makes the poison’).
Perhaps we’ll eventually learn to get this form of addiction under control and find some new thing to high-jack our every waking moment (Virtual Reality tech springs to mind as it seems to be finally living up to its promise).
Whether you decide to say “so long suckers!” or perhaps make the vampire-zombies your pets is up to you. But don’t let them control you, or drain the life from you. Learn about protecting your online privacy and think twice before you hit those clickbait ads and quizzes.
As for me, I’m off to promote this latest post the old-fashioned way. I just hope the rain doesn’t wash all the text off my sandwich board.
Could you live without social media? Is it a problem or do you have it well under control? I’d love to get your thoughts on this.
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017
Morbius the Vampire © Copyright Marvel Comics.