Facebook - A carefully cultivated domain where the individual is the sole curator of an exhibition of all that is fabulous in their life. Completely neglecting the mundane, banal, embarrassing and less photogenic happenings that actually constitute daily existence. The glamorous holidays, nights out, new outfits, gifts obtained, meals cooked, weight lost, gym sessions mastered, adorable pets, even more adorable babies, challenges conquered, promotions received….all contributing to the catalogue of wonderful experiences that is a social media profile.
Facebook and Instagram and whatever the next social network might be, all seeking the gratification and satisfaction that is gained from sharing one’s brochure of “the good life” with people you barely know. People that wouldn’t know if you changed your birthday settings to a whole new month. The forced emotional validation through the seeking of ‘Likes’ and approving comments from distant school mates and obscure individuals that you momentarily befriended on that one trip through Prague.
So why don’t we deactivate, log off, disconnect and get on with the real world? Does the same sense of self-satisfaction come from those that boast about turning their back on all social media? Those that proclaim with a degree of smugness that they call people they want to speak to and the only photo albums they own sit on their coffee table. Should the Instagramers and the Tweeters look down upon those who can conduct daily business without being beholden to the strength of a Wi-Fi connection? Should those who still prefer picking up the paper from the corner store, followed by writing a stern letter to the editor with their pen and parchment, look upon the generation with white cords hanging from their ears with disdain?
I think not. Fear of progress and resistance to change, especially regarding new forms of communication, is as old as society itself. Socrates feared the young becoming literate1. People in the 15th Century feared the printing press would endanger humankind’s ability to retain a working memory2. Some predicted changing soldiers’ uniforms from scarlet to khaki would initiate the decline of the British Empire3. There is fear that elements of modern civilization such as printed books, teachers in schools and the postal service will all be rendered obsolete due to the encroachment of technology on our daily lives. Though I believe the condition of the individual is of greater concern than advancements that no one person can prevent. I believe concern should arise where one’s behaviour becomes disconnected from reality to the extent that their reliance on technology, or equally their resistance to use it, is a hindrance to living a normal life. Someone might have missed out on a job due to their prospective employer coming across ‘that one night’ in Thailand album, or someone may have missed several career opportunities because they refused to learn how to use Skype for an interview. Adapting to this modern world presents daily challenges, even more for those that are reluctant to move with change.
Whether a technological Luddite, or an online addict, keeping life in balance and in perspective is essential. As Edward Tenner, historian of technology and culture, boded “It would be a shame if the very intellect that produced the digital revolution could be destroyed by it.”4
1. ‘Socrates Nightmare’, Reading in a Digital World - Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University, September 6, 2007
2. Intelligent Life (2009 Summer) p92-97 article on general knowledge in the era of the internet search engine. A lifestyle and culture periodical published by The Economist Group, London, UK.
3. Dr Mary Midgley. Article “What Do We Mean By Security?” in Philosophy Now (2007 May/Jun).
4. Niemanne Reports – 2010 Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions Maryanne Wolf,