It is certainly axiomatic to state that social media is becoming a large part of our every lives. The majority of people 18-49 use social media in some form or fashion. We’re talking in the 80% range here. Businesses and organizations of all types are trying to find ways to utilize social media to gain a competitive edge or to get their message out to the most people possible. The largest social media site, Facebook, despite it’s megalithic status, is still trying to find a way to better monetize their leverage. Taking all of this into consideration, people are spending huge amounts of time on their phones, tablets, laptops etc. Distracted drivers are a much greater concern, now that talking, texting, tweeting and updating a status are a part of our everyday routine. But it really even goes beyond all of that for me. I go to a sporting event, or the grocery store or a bar and I see people gazing into their phone working their thumbs to scroll and fingers to type at least at an equal interval as actually interacting with the world around them. I get some of it. We want to check out the sports score or our fantasy football stats. We just got played back with Words With Friends, we were just told the latest gossip and it MUST BE TWEETED! But, geez! It just seems like more and more we are sacrificing our ability to have meaningful interactions with those immediately surrounding us. Sure, social media can be beneficial in it’s proper time and place, but if we live our lives in the world of the internet are we missing out on a more fulfilling life experience? We are told social media is important for success, but consider this:
Personally, I think we should stop using social media as much, even if we continue to use our tablets and laptops. Why? Because even on an electronic device we can still read and if one chooses to not interact with the outside world, then reading seems to be a much more healthy option than Minecraft. We need to dump social media because Don Quixote exists, The Three Musketeers exists, Huck Finn, The Count Of Monte Cristo, and Moby Dick. So much brilliant writing and expression of all that makes us human is being forsaken for a 140 character limit update on someone’s opinion on the latest episode about the Kardashian’s. Not that reading or looking at art is the only or best way to relax. Why not sit out on your porch and just stare at nature? Or, if that isn’t your situation, why not find another way to connect with the beauty of the universe and our natural environment? It doesn’t seem any less pointless, to me, than playing a video game.
I also notice that people tend to be a lot more rude and even cruel online than they normally would be in person. Sure, this is anecdotal, but so is most any observation made about humankind. I see bullying, name calling, and vitriol in debate all over the internet. Just go to any random Yahoo story and read the comments. Or go to YouTube and do the same. We as human beings are either pathetic, inarticulate or just downright bastards, if the conclusions are to be drawn from observing our collective behavior online. But, I know that isn’t the whole story. We have Mozart, we have Twain, we have Monet. And then we have a guy like Maurice Sendak. Sendak symbolizes to me some of all of this, but in all of the glorious and wonderful ways. He was a curmudgeon and misanthropic, but was also a very warm, gentle, lovely man. He was brutally honest and didn’t care who heard it, but also capable of the most beautiful expression of human creativity, imagination and wonder.
I started out writing this, not really knowing where it would lead. I didn’t want this to be another blog bashing eBooks and saying that we must preserve the physical book. I do not intend by writing this to bash all technology either. Social media can, when utilized properly, be an amazing gift and even bring us closer together and enhance experience. I guess I am just calling for balance. For society to slow down and value human interaction. For our values to shift to valuing time spent with family and friends and alone in reflection more than we currently do. Even subtle changes could lead to a big change in our values as a whole. A friend recently told me that studies are demonstrating that we are wired to seek, and enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and the Internet satisfies and perpetuates a sort of dopamine loop since it makes the process of reward-seeking so readily available. This could explain why we love and can be so addicted to sitting at a computer, while what we call our soul and all that makes us human is screaming to get up and move around. But we are tinkerers, we are explorers, we are thinkers. We want answers to questions and we love to find reward for effort. When it is so easily gained, will we soon find that it isn’t satisfying or will blowing up stuff on a screen while talking with our friend be our pinnacle of pleasure?
We should embrace nature while we also seek new technology and scientific advancement to better our lives. Only by embracing nature, I feel, can science be optimally guided into the greatest utilization of our collective and gathering knowledge. I know it is likely irrelevant and we will continue our rat race existence, but it is good to know there are voices of discontent calling out what we call civilization.
Below I am posting some links and entertainment that came to my mind as I wrote this blog. The Bill Moyers interview should be listened to in its entirety, but if you are short on time, skip to around minute 35 -37. The Stephen Colbert videos are pretty incredible too. I included one written interview that is just classic Sendak. I also included a 5 minute or so interview Sendak had with Terry Gross that demonstrates the caring and compassion of Sendak in full force. The rest are appropriate songs.