Social Media Frightens Me: The Thoughtful Confessions of a Confirmed Skeptic

12 Apr

Social Media Frightens Me: The Thoughtful Confessions of a Confirmed Skeptic

By Nate Thayer

April 12, 2012

In all honesty, I don’t feel comfortable engaging in this whole social media thingamagig.

But I am not an idiot.

I knew I had to get with the program.

I was confronted with this realization when recently I found myself talking out loud to my pal, my dog Lamont, in an increasingly prolonged non-dialogue, and I noticed his alarmed, quizzical expression of concern.

It then abruptly dawned on me that my telephone rarely rang anymore.

 Actual human-to-human conversation employing ones vocal chords as a once unquestionably central tool had become not just an infrequent occurrence, but bordered on an oddity.

There was the possibility I had been on an alcohol fueled bender during this transition, vaguely defined by a period of years, when, without me noticing, human interaction via human sounds in most any form had seemingly become considered no longer an efficient or useful method of communication.

Other major changes in the world surrounding me had gone unprocessed partially as a consequence of the youthful indiscretions of an affection for recreational chemicals, so there was an historical track record that gave credence to this theory.

So, not long ago, I concluded I best get with the program.

I dipped my toes reluctantly into the shallow waters of the digital social media world on Facebook.

And Poof! Several hundred people from across the planet with whom I had enjoyed spending time with in recent years appeared rather quickly in the living room of my rented flat.

I now resumed old friendships that had gone dormant. I located lost friends, not forgotten, but the relationships suspended by distance or divergent life paths taken.

 I even found more than a few new people with shared common interests or appreciated qualities and these relationships blossomed.

However, I am quite competent and comfortable with identifying both what my few talents and skills are, and precisely those, which are in the clear majority, of which I have essentially no hope of successfully attempting to perform, little less excel at.

These include most things that involve machinery or quantitative logic.

These are represented most commonly in such things as keeping my bank balance in the black, constructing or fixing stuff, on down to, say, changing the deflated tires on motorized vehicles.

Logically, this rules out completely mastering new-fangled widgets like computers.

I still get melancholy when my thoughts wander to fond memories of rotary telephones and stumbling in the early post dawn hours to the local breakfast joint to commence my interaction with fellow members of my species.

But again, I maintain I am not an idiot.

I am aware a resurgence of these sort of technologies and methods of human interaction is unlikely.

But that does not translate into me easing seamlessly, sometimes with the feeling of being herded like sheep, into this New World Order in which, in its extreme, involves the wholesale physical separation of all humans from one another, voiceless and soulless, connected only through cyberspace.

I poked my head into some of the other more popular spheres of social media, and have found them mostly daunting and disturbing and unfulfilling.

I find no intellectual satisfaction or entertainment with accepting a limit of 140 characters to express myself. Nor have I identified a potential, while restricted by those parameters, for engaging in meaningful conversation or dialogue. Even more profound, I find it impossible to identify under such rules of engagement,  if those I attempt to engage are worthy of my effort or time. It is too often a reckless gamble with the odds unworthy of purchasing the irredeemable chips required to gain entrance to that casino.

Social media frightens me.

Sometimes I feel reduced, in a version of a willingly self-incarcerated caged animal, to desperately trying to communicate with millions of other people who are also unrequited, isolated, and hunched over machines, our eyes staring at back-lit electronic screens and our fingers punching petroleum based non degradable manufactured material in a futile attempt to replicate the absence of human warmth and connection.

 Much of the time it seems the simple silent presence of another human, only the soothing sound of their breathing and not uttering a word, would be more satisfying than the faceless, soulless millions who, simultaneously both non-verbal and recklessly communicating, are always available and sometimes desperate.

Too often, I have a vision of everyone trying to interact with one another, harshly punching a plastic alphabet keyboard with our fingers, as if we were tapping a code on the concrete wall between death row prison cells as the only available option for human communication.

It is not unlike being trained as a professional warrior but never allowed to kill an enemy.

Or fucking for years but ordered to cease, prohibited from ever reaching orgasm.

Too often, we really are mostly exchanging a dialogue created within our own minds. Sometimes I think we misidentify much of the content of this digital exchange as meeting our fundamental primal need for human bonding, for understanding, for growth, for empathy, for compassion, for improvement.

We delude ourselves that it is a version of, or a substitute for, conversation, or debate, or sharing, or exchange, or dialogue.

Too often we are, in fact talking to ourselves, avoiding growth, defensive, and self protective and cowardly equating running in place, in neutral, with human progress, like a gerbil on a stationary wheel, in a cage, in the corner of a child’s room, endlessly treading the rotating wheel thinking he is going somewhere better, or elsewhere.

There is something dehumanizing about it all.

There is something cowardly about it all.

There is something also dangerous about hiding one’s unique beauty and copious flaws behind a protected wall of anonymity.

Fibbing about ones essence as if it was required to be cloaked and obfuscated and filtered rather than recognized and improved upon and celebrated.

This extraordinary potential of globally connecting all of humanity in the uncharted waters of the digital age, is also a dark double edged sword which has the equal potential to dehumanize us all.

Are we deluding ourselves that we are entering an age which is unstoppably marching towards connecting the global community for the progress of humanity while simultaneously force marching ourselves into billions of fundamentally isolated units, stripping ourselves of the unquantifiable essence of the human connections that have together brought us to this threshold of progress as the only species uniquely endowed with powers of critical thinking and compassion and community?

Are we retreating from placing the interests of the common good ahead of the mercenary pursuit of satiating personal faux intellectual lust for self empowerment, replacing connecting the global community into the ultimate isolation of each representative from the humanity of one another?

I ask myself that question with increasing frequency each time I log in.

Far too often I log off hours later, having filled my head with gluttonous greed at the digital information trough, only to leave having consumed no nutrients.

8 Responses to “Social Media Frightens Me: The Thoughtful Confessions of a Confirmed Skeptic”

  1. Bill Herod April 12, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    Well put. The challenge before us is how to use these remarkable tools more effectively. Through social media we have the opportunity to be in “touch” with people we rarely or never see. What we do with that “touch” requires sensitivity, practice and grace just as any other form of “touch.”


  2. jamesspencerphoto April 12, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Great post, it’s important to strike a balance between the real world and this “matrix” of sorts. Like a friend’s status but be sure to hook up with them for a beer also. If it’s 100% electronic interactions it’s antisocial media in my book, the very opposite of what it’s creators lauded it to be. It’s not going away anytime soon so the concerns we have will only grow, but then again there’s always the delete account option, we’re not forced onto social media at gunpoint, just nagged into it by those who already took the red pill.


  3. Leigh Shulman April 12, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    I had to read this a few times to grasp that the image of a dehumanizing, soulless keyboard punching hunchbacks are the result of social media. That has not at all been my experience. Quite the opposite.

    I meet people online all the time, and then we meet in person. I find knowing who they are, having had the opportunity to read their profiles, their thoughts, joke around and chat online mean when we meet face to face, I’m already comfortable. It also seems to do away with a good deal of small talk. I am horrible with small talk in real life.

    I see, also, that you have FB page. I joined it, because I want to hear more of what you have to say. After your post about the Atlantic and now with the HuffPo, yeah, absolutely.

    And if you ever want to hear more about social media from me — how i use it. why I use it. how it keeps me connected in a very good way — you know where to find me.


  4. David Bennett April 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Well if that is what we are – then that is what we are – and if fear holds us back from intimacy, and the online world offers any kind of relief for the itch that needs scratching, then I say, throw yourself in the pool and swim. And if there is no nourishment there, then maybe it is not the pool, but the swimmer?

    Maybe you need to mix with a better class of pig at the digital feeding trough.

    Respect for holding your own with the Huffington Post.


  5. David Bennett April 13, 2013 at 3:22 am #

    I re-read what I wrote and it seems a bit (more than a bit) strong – apologies.


  6. Oliv Hello May 18, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    Nothing will ever replace a big smatching Hugh!



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