Social media trivializes our lives
Facebook harms individual self-image and requires users to maintain a facade of happiness. | Photo Illustration by Eliana Park/ THE CHIMES
British novelist Aldous Huxley wrote and completed “Brave New World” in 1931— a dystopian novel depicting a society in which its citizens are oppressed by their addiction to entertainment and a feel-good drug called Soma. In an age where easy social media makes available cheap and endless forms of entertainment and instant gratification, millennials and future generations must seriously contemplate the harmful effects social media can have on our self-image and our interaction with the world.
Living in the moment
It can be difficult to “live in the moment” when surrounded by the instant connection and entertainment social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, make available to us. Grandiose views of the Grand Canyon are suddenly interrupted by a couple waving their selfie stick in the air. It is intriguing to see museum-goers constantly check their phones for the latest viral content or sports update. I myself am guilty of this habit so prevalent among millennials. This is not a condemnation of technology or social media. This does mean we should all throw our phones away, move far away from civilization and declare ourselves “luddites.”
The way we consume media and entertainment on our smartphones is changing the way we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us. Neil Postman writes in his bestselling book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” on how “cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments” when “a population becomes distracted by trivia.” Postman claims, “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”
Postman is correct. Our perpetual consumption of trivial entertainment has distracted us from more important issues. Politicians become brand names and their policies become subservient to soundbites and memes. Huxley reminds us that states do not need to ban and burn books anymore because people do not read anyway. Why censor books when the truth is made irrelevant by our endless stream of noise and nonsense information? We have endless streams of cable news and instant access to online articles, but the populace is not any more knowledgeable about politics and war.
College students need to turn to books to nurture our understanding of the world. Our constant addiction with maintaining a fake image of ourselves on social media is exhausting and alienating. We become obsessed with our self-image and are constantly bothered by our Facebook friends who seemingly always happen to have more exciting and fulfilling lives than us.
Our image comforts us. A new like on a post or follower validates the unique individuality we are told about since childhood. Social media has become a vicious popularity competition. The general population’s propensity to shut out news about war and climate change is the reason why public intellectuals like Walter Lippmann declared, “The manufacture of consent is useful and necessary for a cohesive society.” Social media has become the number one medium for manufacturing the lies and illusions that keep citizens complacent. If we do not receive our daily “bread and circuses,” we turn to social media for validation.
As students, we are obligated to be independent and critical thinkers. Authenticity demands us to use social media in moderation.