Social Media is for “Idiots”

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Stop acting like you’ve unplugged from the Matrix, and admit we’re all digging our own mass grave. But you can put the shovel down.

As much as I dislike writing in binary opposites, I don’t think I could write positively about social media whilst staying true to myself. It seems as though society has become so focused on constantly oversharing that it’s difficult to remain positive. In a world where everything is public, and every photo has to be immaculate, we’re at a stage where the person you find online is completely different from reality. And yet we actually have the nerve to complain about a predicament we actively place ourselves in on a daily basis. The defining image of our generation is an adult blindly swinging a baseball bat at a piñata full of hand grenades, and then complaining about the shrapnel wounds in their face.

I think what’s important to consider is that “idiot” is a rather broad term, and there’s various forms of human behaviour that can constitute idiotic. As anyone in academia will know, it’s important to qualify the terminology. In this instance, we shall consider the matter in mathematical terms through the use of a scale. Allow me to provide some examples:

· People who film live videos on Instagram/ Facebook — tolerable idiots.

· People who tag themselves in every location they visit — mild idiots.

· People who spam Snapchat on a night out with footage of them badly lip-synching– idiots who should know better.

· People who turn subtle fashion choices into headlines– self-obsessed idiots, but not totally irredeemable.

· People who take Instagram photos of food or coffee — idiots. Total idiots. If it really matters, keep a food diary.

· People who post minimum one selfie per day — arrogantly self-obsessed idiots who probably masturbate whilst looking at their own reflection.

· People who post status updates about feeling sad/annoyed, but when asked in the comments section why, they will respond “don’t worry” — Fundamental idiots. Unfriend immediately.

· Myself — want a healthy dose of irony? Just consider the fact I’m going to share this article on social media. I’ll tweet this out like I’ve just written a fucking masterpiece, then refresh my stats hourly, until finally seeing that twelve people have viewed it across two days. But it’s fine, right? I’m a self-diagnosed idiot who thinks their self-deprecating honesty is endearing. Wrong. My Facebook profile and habit for Instagram posts about comics is evidence that I can be a true idiot.

It is possible to live a happy and healthy life on social media, it just depends on your approach. It is a huge relief to unfriend/ unfollow anyone that annoys you, or otherwise makes your news feed an unhappy place. If you surround yourself with the right people, and understand what is truly worth sharing, social media can be a positive experience. But if you rely on it too much, if you let it control your every move to the point of near lunacy, it’s toxic. Think about it, too much of anything is unhealthy. Too much alcohol and it ruins your body. Too much water, you drown. Too much time at the gym, you risk personality deficit. And if you rely too much on social media, you can threaten your chances of living a happy life. Remember, social media is a beehive; what you receive is often determined by your approach. Sometimes you get honey and that’s great, but if you’re finding you get more beestings then it’s time to retreat. Unfriending isn’t a crime, it’s a function that allows you to take control of your online experience.

There is one saving grace in this Greek tragedy of life in the social media realm, and that is knowing that people can put their own lives to the side and help each other in times of need. If you were on Twitter around the time of the devastating Manchester attack last May, you’ll have seen a huge influx of community spirit. People opening their homes to strangers, popping the kettle on, using the internet to help locate missing people and generally sending kind wishes to those who needed it. That is what it should mean to be human in the technological age; using a mobile device to offer a helping hand to a stranger. And if you ignore all of the deliberately provocative nonsense from cultural parasites like Katie Hopkins, it’s clear that social media should be a platform for bringing people together, not pushing us further apart.

What is important to acknowledge is that social media isn’t exclusively for idiots. Granted, at the best of times it does seem to be inhabited by idiots, but the potential to accomplish good things is still there. And if tragedies like the Manchester attack prove anything, it’s not only that people can be nice, but we should be nice. It costs absolutely nothing to be nice to someone or to encourage them, and we should strive to do it more often, and we certainly shouldn’t wait for extreme circumstances to extend a friendly gesture. Being nice shouldn’t be a choice, it should be our default setting.

So the next time you’re about to swing a baseball bat at a beehive, stop and think about whether the honey is worth the bee stings.

With thanks to Rebecca Stovell