I have a theory. It’s not a very well researched theory, nor have I been thinking about this for months, or years – hell, I’ve hardly thought about it for 15 minutes. It’s still a theory, and I figured I’d put it down in writing before it disappeared – as does many of my late night ideas and thought-processes.
The theory is this: The main reason why we’re so obsessed with social media1 is that we’re getting a bad conscience everytime we ignore it.
I’m don’t think this is the sole reason why we spend so much time browsing Facebook, reading Twitterposts, updating, commenting and reading blogs, and generally sharing every tidbit of our mundane lives with… everyone, but I do think it’s a major part of it.
The second part of my theory is this: The second reason for being so obsessed with social media, is that we’re desperately trying to be interesting, even when we’re clearly not.
This one goes out to everyone who has their own blog where they write about everything that happens, whether it’s having burgers at McD, or going to babysit for Brangelina, or fill Facebook or Twitter with endless, mundane updates day out and day in. It’s the need for the Warhol catchphrase “everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame” – and the Internet has made that so much easier to achieve.
So, to explain this two-part theory a bit, mostly because I’m guilty in part of doing just what I’m accusing the rest of the world of doing, I’d like to state the following right away: I don’t think social media is bad – I think that many of the ways we actually use them, are.
Posting updates on Facebook or on Twitter when you have something to say, or just want to share something with your friends – there’s nothing wrong with that. Even posting inane stuff like quizes, game info, tweets about where you are and what you’re doing – nothing wrong with that.
What might be worth considering, though, is how much time do you feel comfortable spending away from all social media activity? Do you get a bad conscience if you don’t check Facebook for a day or two? If your unread tweetcount reaches an X amount (where X is either in the double or triple digit area), do you get chills and sweats at the same time? If so, you might consider the fact that you’re probably addicted. Not just to your own updates, but to everyone elses updates too – you’re basically needing to know everything, about everyone.
And this brings us to the ever-churning world of online “conscience”. Everything and everybody is online nowadays. Hell, even my dad is on Facebook. I remember 10-15 years back, before the Internet really took off, before we had cellphones – we actually had to use landlines, both for data-traffic and to call people – and if we were out and pondered if a friend was home and wanted to hang, we went over and rang the doorbell. This has all been transferred to the web, texting, instant messaging, email and other means of keeping track of eachother.
What took 2 minutes to sort out before the onset of cellphones and text messaging, now takes half an hour, because instead of calling the other person, you end up texting, “because it’s easier”.
Well, we’re off on a tangent, and I’m gonna try and reel us in again. The fact that you have 500+ friends on Facebook, or 3000+ followers on Twitter, doesn’t mean that you have to be online 24/7. Nor does it mean that you’re all that interesting. The fact is – you’re most likely not. Of course your friends and family might want to know what you’re up to, if you’ve gotten a new job, new significant other, or just feel happy (or like crap). And if you have a Twitter-account, you might even have something good or useful to say, or something significant to bring to a discussion or ongoing conversation – by all means – Twitter can be very good – I got my current apartment via Twitter, and it all took about 6 hours after I tweeted I needed one.
But the fact is – we’re often too obsessed. We spend too much time online, catching up, that we almost forget how to do the important stuff.
My point in all this rambling, ranting lunacy, is basically this: There’s no reason why you should have a bad conscience because you haven’t updated or replied to all the social media networks you’re on for a couple days. Paying a bit of attention, answering emails and keeping up to date on stuff that’s happening to your friends? All good. Doing this more or less 24/7? Not so good. Not even close.
And again – I mostly believe that most of the obsession comes from both the bad conscience leaving it be gives us, and the fact that we’re wanting to seem more important than we actually are, or make our mark on the “new” world that is the Internet.
Social media in this context is everything from Facebook, to Foursquare, to Twitter, to texting, to Get Glue, to Digg and so forth and so on