Using Social Networking Sites To Tune In or Tune Out?


I was on Facebook yesterday when I saw my friend Ellin’s update and post of this picture.

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© Good Lord Above on Facebook

The shared photo was created by a satirist who goes by the name  ‘Good Lord Above’.  You can read his witty and relevant commentary on Facebook. He is wildly popular and to date has received 1,000,000 ‘Likes’.

PROVOKING A RESPONSE

The bite of the  message was shocking and stopped me in my tracks. Clearly, “God” as he is sometimes called, was poking fun at the collective outrage displayed on social media outlets concerning the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman the day before. Could Affleck generate more social interest than Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people? As many as 1300 people had recently died in the latest attempt to quell a civilian uprising.  Yet, a great deal of the buzz on social media was whether Affleck was the right choice for a movie not yet shot and due for release in 2015. The irony, Affleck is a humanitarian in his own right and has lent his fame to highlight the plight of Congolese refugees.

DO WE TUNE IN TO TUNE OUT ?

Where was the uniform moral outrage about Syria instead of Affleck? We live in a world where we have never been more accessible to people and the sharing of information instantly. And yet, I think at times we have become increasingly superficial and disconnected from each other.  So, I am asking the question: Are social networking sites to blame? The cool thing about social media was the notion it could bring society and people even closer. In fact, Facebook – the mother of all things social media – states their mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. I think our fascination with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest is having the opposite effect. Now you can share and connect without leaving home or even speaking to people. Compared to our grandparents or even our parents, we appear to live in a more isolated and disconnected world. Can we really be alone while living with 7 billion other people?

Another friend, who is a wellness professional, recently used her Facebook page to implore her male friends and family members to request ultrasounds to detect early signs of  kidney cancer. She was spurred to write the post because a friend (the 5th one to be exact) had recently confided he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer.  She had also lost a cousin far too young to that same disease so this is a cause she understands first-hand. To her amazement, her friends and extended family were far more interested in knowing who the sick friend was. The superficiality and gossip held far more interest than the important warning.  She was shocked.

 ILLUSION OF CONTROL IN A WORLD GONE MAD

Long before the Internet, people took their message to the people to affect change. People naïvely wrote their government officials; protested, sat-in or marched  to be heard. What would have happened to the Civil Rights Movement if it had been launched via the Internet?  As we mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I had a dream speech’ at the end of August,  it is timely to ask if it would have had the  same impact  had he posted it on LinkedIn and Facebook. Now, success would be measured by the amount “Likes” or “Retweets”? Dr. King’s oratory skill and passion would have been lost if communicated through most social media channels….YouTube would have been the exception. The impact of having 250,000 people marching to the Lincoln Memorial united for change and hear Dr. King deliver his speech would have been lost as well.

Perhaps in a world often out of control, social network sites allow us to block out the bad and focus on what we deem relevant.  By and large, it is an environment you can create and control. These sites tend to form people into groups who all have the same point of view and opinion. It is the illusion of control in a world sometimes gone mad.

Does social media allow you to tune in or to tune out?

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