Social Media is Making the World a Smaller Place…Maybe Too Small

A momentary lapse of reason by @gapingvoid and @briansolis

We’ve always heard that it’s a small world. In its own way, social media made it even smaller. The world is practically on-demand with information filling our small screens wherever we go. When we aren’t consuming and propagating the latest breaking or fake news or the firehose of events and updates shared by everyone and everything, we are engrossed in pushing everything we see, think and do.

With the next smartphone, wearable, AR/VR lens, app, etc., always on the horizon, we aren’t reversing course, we are still paving new paths into uncharted territory. It is in how we balance the digital and real worlds and our experiences in each that defines the foundation for which we build our future. Life is the sum of our experiences. And experiences, the best and worst of them, become the architecture of our identity. Together, our experiences and memories become the construct of society.

Life happens while we’re busy consuming and sharing experiences in real-time. The good news about social media is it gave everyone a voice. The bad news about social media is it gave everyone a voice. Our favorite apps and devices didn’t come with instruction manuals on how to find balance or how to manage judgement and keep the doors open to perspective and reason. Instead, we are struggling through learning and unlearning what it takes to contribute to meaningful engagement and experiences with online and real world communities of people who are also wrestling to do the same.

We each have a role to play in the evolution of society. We all believe we are influential, and we are in our own way, but we are also students of life. We should never stop learning. Nor should we should never stop observing, dreaming, or engaging in critical thinking that challenges our own conventions and perspectives. In an era of information overload, we are constantly at risk of closing our minds and walls. It’s easy. Without mindfulness or intent, social media and personal devices create a perfect storm for cognitive and validation bias where we increasingly connect with, discover and share information that insulates us from the world as it evolves.

There’s an anonymous saying that’s been attributed to many amazing people over the years…

“We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”

At times, I find it effortless to consume and share information as if I’m at the center of the universe. I forget or I’m distracted into thinking that my perspective is normal and anyone or anything that challenges it is outside or reason.

That’s the peril in all of this. Every time we use our devices and apps, they’re designed to do just that. They’re built upon a nature of self-centeredness that by design closes or narrows our frames of reference. Learning and unlearning as a result, are endangered.

This isn’t an argument against technology. This is merely me sharing my observations online with great irony. But I do so, inspired by pressing pause, not sharing or consuming, and instead, observing and listening and attempting to learn, unlearn and grow. This is an invitation to join me or a request for me to join you on this journey together.

In a world of technology and accidental narcissism, humanity, powered by empathy, becomes the killer app.

Thank you to Hugh MacLeod and my friends at GapingVoid for creating this cartoon as a gift to us. It’s part of an ongoing series where art and philosophy reflect on where we are and where we’re going.

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire and change executive mindsets.