Whither Social Media?

Oh, for the good old days, when a very popular person might count their number of good friends on their fingers and toes.

Today, if someone does not have a 1,000 friends and followers, they must be exuding either the worst body odors that the Internet can carry or they are virtual hermits.

It is neither popular, nor a good idea, to rain on the parade of social media because there must be a horse in there somewhere.

But, may be it is a good idea to stand back, scratch our heads and ask if perhaps too much of a good thing might just turn out to be a bad thing.

I am not suggesting that we should, or even could, turn back the clock on social media, but rather what we might do is figure out how people can manage their, and all of societies’ digital lives, better.

Recently, I was killing a bit of time waiting for a ride and had a conversation with a young baby sitter about what bothered her most in her daily life–besides the price of gas, for instance. She immediately said, “Social media- it soaks up far too much of my time because it promises so much and delivers so little.” That said, do the good aspects of social media come close to outweighing the bad, and where are we heading?

Clearly, to me, she was an unusually perceptive young woman who put her finger squarely on one of today’s most important and growing problems.

Have you ever wondered what the state of the world was when the giant dinosaurs ruled and dominated the Earth? They were big partly so they could cover a lot territory, providing them with vast quantities of natures’ harvests which they needed to simply survive. But for the vast changes to their habitats caused by a giant asteroid’s collision with Earth, they might still be in charge and we would not have to worry about social media.

Instead, we may now have something like that galactic collision occurring in full sight, which may be overwhelming the human race with an overload of information as deadly in due course as the atomic atmospheric dust that wiped out the dinosaurs.

That overload is confusing, distracting and destroying the very sinews of the social fabric of society, which are essential to its proper functioning. It is undermining mutual respect among many people all over the world.

Ironically, one might have thought that the diffusion of so much information would have tended to bring more people together in harmony. To date, a lot of the evidence suggests that we are headed in the opposite direction.

Hopefully, it is not too late to address these concerns and set up some counter trends to ward off falling too far in that deep hole.

What is needed? Until now, most ‘news’ to people has been pretty well filtered by ‘responsible’ editors and journalists. Now, the most unbelievable dumb and wrong-headed stuff gets going in social media and spreads across the Internet and before anyone knows it, it becomes ‘a real thing’ which triggers a significant portion of the world into pursuit of phantoms, basically to everyone’s disadvantage.

Perhaps we need a new section of the New York Times, called Social Media Accountability, whose slogan and objective could be, “Social media ‘news’ NOT fit to print must be exposed-to daylight.”


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