August 13, 2012 by David
Let me paint for you a picture of a not-so-far-off future…
Human intellect has reach a completely new level. We’re talking beyond Matrix-level advancement here (without the robots taking over the world). Life is made so much easier by the fact that technology has progressed far beyond where it is today. In fact, it has advanced so much that people only have to interact with each other via social media.
Actually they don’t even call it social media anymore. There is no social...
No one speaks to each other. No one speaks, period. There are no words. There are no conversations. The world has 10 billion people but none of them are actually friends. Mankind has regressed socially to the point of absolutely zero personal connections.
Sounds pretty bleak, huh? You might be asking yourself..
How Does This Happen?
Fortunately for us, this apocalyptic vision of the future won’t just happen overnight. For one thing we aren’t nearly to that point technologically. But even if we were, how bad could it be?
I mean that first part sounds pretty nice! Advanced technology. The pinnacle of human intellect. All that stuff seems like a good thing. But then it’s sort of ruined by the second part. The zero connections and regression of society stuff.
That can’t really happen, can it?
Look at the world around you: the technology we have today would have seemed impossible (insane, even) to someone a hundred years ago. Social media itself (this blog, for example) would have seemed impractical even 50 years ago. Yet it exists. It even thrives. Is it really so unbelievable that technology could advance to the point of being a stand-in for our emotions? our personalities? But I’m getting off topic.
The question was how does technology lead to the downfall of society as we know it?
It’s simple, really: technology eventually replaces society. It supercedes society. And for those of you disbelievers who say that this will never happen, I profess to you now that this change is already taking place.
Think about it. Your lives are being converted into online memories and biographies. Your conversations are becoming digital bits of information, communicated not in words but in symbols and images. The society we once knew, a society based on communication — written, spoken, personal – is disintegrating before our very eyes.
How easy is it to scroll through the Facebook timeline and ‘Like’ someone’s status, photo, link, etc.? Super easy. Almost too easy – we do it a hundred times a day. Actually, we do it 2.7 billion times a day. We stop using words to express ourselves and instead use mouse clicks and a thumbs up. We have essentially created a new form of communication — a new form of society.
Why is That a Problem?
There are many out there who believe that this vision of the future is to be strived for. It is the “great evolution” of our society. Some people believe that this is how humanity will achieve immortality, by converting our physical selves into an eternal, digital presence.
I disagree with those people.
Whenever you click your mouse and ‘Like’ that picture of the icanhascheezburger cat, you are engaging in social conditioning. For those of you that missed Psychology class let me break it down for you. By being able to express your approval of/admiration for something or someone by simply clicking a mouse, it becomes easier and more comfortable to always express your approval of/admiration for things in that way. To put it another way, it becomes more difficult for you to express that approval/admiration in any other way (eg, in person).
Surely you Facebook users have seen the petitions for a ‘Dislike’ button. Perhaps you are even someone leading the charge. And that’s okay. The fact that people are using social media to encourage change (even if it is a nonsensical change) means they are at least doing something right.
But this obsession with being able to express your feelings with the click of a button is evidence of our growing disconnect with society. Do we really need a ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ button to tell people whether we ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ something? Since when did we become incapable of using words?
As we continue down this road of making communication more efficient, we also continue to make it less personal. As a result, society as we know it will eventually digress into nothingness.
Facebook ‘Like’ button = fall of society. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the ‘Like’ button will destroy the world.
How Can We Fix This?
“But David,” I’m sure you are saying, “is there any way we can avoid this horrendous fate? Are we doomed to a life without friendship and love?” Calm down, it will all be okay. Luckily for us I am taking a radical approach to the subject. I don’t believe it is in our destiny to become permanently and completely disconnected from one other.
So what does this mean for us, then?
It means that the ‘Like’ button is effectively aiding and abetting careless social media users in the gradual disconnection of society. That much is true. As people lose the ability to share their feelings in person (or even in words, for that matter), they will lose the ability to sympathize, empathize, and communicate with one another. Insomuch as communication is the basis of our human society, society begins to deteriorate as communication begins to regress.
The solution to this problem isn’t a departure from social media. Far from it! I firmly believe that these tools we have available to us via the Internet can do more to advance society and advance personal connections than anything else. BUT — and this is a big but — we must be sure to use these tools effectively. We must be sure that we don’t forget the “social” part of “social media.“
Conversations must take place. Communication must be more in depth than clicking a ‘Like’ button or Retweeting someone. We cannot become idle bystanders to society rather than active participants in it. In this great new world of social media, we must ensure that society is translated to (but not replaced by) the Internet. Only then will my apocalyptic vision become science fiction instead of a realistic possibility.
Perhaps I am just a pessimist. Perhaps I’m taking things too far. Perhaps. But do you ever really want to find out?
That being said, feel free to ‘Like’ this article. Also keep in mind that I would love to hear from you, the readers. After all, that’s why I do this. And without that conversation, this vision of the future might just come to pass.