(approximate read time: 5 minutes)
Mark Zuckerburg’s mission for Facebook was to connect the world. He’s essentially achieved that goal in every conceivable way, and daily gaining new ground in the forum of his mission. But there’s more than just Facebook out there right? We have Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat too. But even those are just the power players. Nearly every organization, educational institute, and work force arena boasts some web interface modeled after the aforementioned interaction sites. Amid the electronic chaos, nearly invisible in their hyper-practical uses, are the daily utilities; text messages, emails, and IM. In an era where the cultivation of personal friendships has become morbidly complex, and the art of personal conversation is desperately wheezing on life support… web based communication has thrived mercilessly.
Social media has become the norm.
So, naturally, when matters of incisive relevance strike the country or the culture, we flock to our preferred social media sites and vent. We twitter rant- streams of rapid fire, 140 character, reflective reactions to the event violently writhing in mainstream attentions. We proudly hop on Instagram, letting loose our canons of chronic sardonicism, reveling in the 60 seconds (really 59) of unabashed free speech streaming from our lips. We snap it, we post our memes, we share articles on Facebook, we make slick comments. We do what we do, sharing our thoughts, speaking directly to various groups of people while shirking the responsibility of communication in the process.
And the whole delegation travels its course, largely uninterrupted, absorbing elegance and dysfunction with nearly identical fervor, until the inevitable happens.
Somebody talks back.
Now, if one is not careful, you will interpret the blatant article shares and flagrant rant posts as an invitation to exchange ideas. That’s what social media is for right? That’s why Facebook took off right? Because of its primary mission? To connect the world. But, as anyone who has dared risk unpopular perspective or countercultural response to a status knows… Readers are not invited to discuss, so much as they are invited to agree.
Everybody wants to talk.
Not everybody wants to be connected.
Which is fine.
But in the digital exchange, wherein posted status is metamorphosed into discussion cornucopia, we can discover much about the general psyche behind social media conversationalists. People who, if interacted with in person, would likely lack brazen abrasiveness- not for lack courage or genuine ardor, but because of the unavoidable valuing of humanity of the human being standing right in one’s face. As such, I’m sure we could each run an exceptionally long list on the woes of social media discussions, but I believe I have distilled it down to its essential core.
And, ironically enough, it boils down to language. Two words. The first you may already know.
Social media demands that you express your ideas, your perspective, your carefully crafted viewpoint in as short a message form as possible. As long as it’s short enough to elicit a retort, you are considered a valid exchange member. Worthy of this wading pool interaction.
But what about when the topic is racism? Black lives matter? Abortion? The intersection of faith and reason? Which unfortunate political choice is the lesser of two evils (even though, as CS Lewis states, the lesser evil is not thereby good and should not be confused as such)?
In other words, what about when the topic on the table requires more than a flash in the pan reply?
From my observation, we have two choices at this point. We can still elect to keep our replies short, trusting that the recipient comprehends us on an intimate level that will suitably bridge any gaps in the unsaid. The second choice is that we elaborate our reply, attempting to anticipate and abate any elements serving as candidates to be misconstrued and thus foul up our whole answer.
Taking the first in stride, we immediately see that such a solution only works if the discussion is held entirely amongst people with whom we have an intimate relationship. People who know our hearts, our thought processes, or at least are familiar enough with the integrity of our character to know when to ask what questions. Asking the right question at the wrong time can muck up the discussion just as much as asking the wrong question entirely. Encompassed by such an intertwined set of relationships, however, one might question why such people would hold that discussion on social media anyway.
Anyone who has ever held a personal conversation between someone(s) they are close with, irrevocably knows that the clearest lines of communication are not always publicly applauded or even contextually understood. Thus, it stands to reason that this group of people would not hold such a discussion in the openly publicized- and strictly criticized- forum of social media. They have a real relationship. They will intimate offline through their real connection.
This then leaves us with the second solution. And promptly runs us into the most unyielding of brick walls. People don’t want to read all of that in a social media reply. But what other recourse is there? No matter how thou might shave and prune thy e-dialogue, wisdom dictates the inescapable revelation that the majority of people replying to your comment do not know the intellectual, spiritual, or cultural background you’re hailing from.
We’ve got to be aware of what makes us unique…
Because that’s usually the spot we’re going to have to clarify most.
Time to learn that second word.
“A pithy observation.”
And now the utter villainy, the black magic fearlessly spun, the shameless witchcraft of the entire thing becomes exposed.
What people REALLY want is for us to compact a high amount of SUBSTANCE into minuscule paragraphic expression. Yet what is nurtured is merely saying MUCH in few words. Pith demands intelligence. Brevity does not. Pith promotes growth. Brevity does not. Sure brevity is the soul of wit, but what of the fact that wit is not the solution to everything? One could even argue that wit is not the solution to anything. It’s a vehicle. It is no more the message than the Prius that your uncle pulls up in on Thanksgiving is actually your uncle.
Individually we may be able to realize these truths, and we even may be able to work the nuances of such phenomena out in a corporate setting… But the internet based gathering of social media transmutes the experience into mocking futility. Pith requires effort; Brevity is so much easier and far more fun.
So is social media ultimately bad? Of course not. We must pay attention to our fairy tales and our mythologies. If you know what the curse is, you can learn how to avoid it. If you have comprehended the seraphic redolence of Paradise, you steer clear Hades’ foul stench. If you harbor the holy elixir to evil magic, then- in some cases- you can break the spell entirely. For, as readers, we understand that higher planes and mystical energies are rarely inherently bad… often they’re quite needed… the hated qualities lie in their corruption.
And it is so easy for something designed to achieve mass good, to become corrupted, and damn the very ones intended to be uplifted.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!