Everyone is on social media. Everything that everyone does is on social media. Where we go, who we meet and what we do is all par for the course on social media. An entire industry has been built on oversharing and socializing. But exactly how social is social media making us?
Come to think of it, it is very tough to remember how life was before social media entered and virtually took over our lives. The lines between online and offline are so blurred that there are people who document their entire life online very diligently and regularly without fail. But when we sit down and think of whether or not social media has made us more social, the answers are quite contrary to the public opinion that this medium has somehow brought us closer and made us better connected and hence a better society. The effect is quite the opposite in most cases I am afraid.
Conversation is dead
Yes, the first casualty of this onslaught by social media into every device and every aspect of our lives is the spoken word and with it, the humble phone call. Think of this scenario now, you are planning to take your family or friends out to eat and are looking for recommendations. In the pre-social world, you actually called up friends or walked down to your neighbor and had a real conversation to talk about options and budgets and in the bargain have a healthy social interaction. Cut to today – the social era and what we do is go online and ask absolute strangers or people you have never met IRL to give you suggestions. You then filter them out based on preferences and budget and you are off. See what we are losing here? The good old conversational connect. This is just one example. I have many friends who get extremely upset if I call them on their phones. “Can’t you tweet/text/whatsapp?” is what the ask me the minute they pick the phone up. The whole concept of information on steroids and instant updates has almost choked the life out of healthy verbal conversations that were the mainstays of many brilliant bonds that we built. The future does look grim for the spoken word. Everyone speaks now, but only to the AI powered virtual assistants on their phones. Sad indeed.
We are Hashcrapping our lives
A friend was planning his wedding recently. I had offered to help with whatever I can. A couple of days after that, I got a call from him, “BIG EMERGENCY! COME NOW!!” he yelled at me on whatsapp (upper case is yelling if you didn’t know that already), so I got into panic mode and rushed to meet him. I was totally not expecting what he said to me there. “I don’t have good hashtags for the wedding! This is a mess!” He almost broke down. A few years ago, this would have been the last thing that anyone had on their minds about anything that was happening in their lives. But today, from a wedding to a family meeting and in some extreme cases even a break-up has to have hashtags to go with them. They get printed even on event invites and put up on hoardings. We are now living in a world were hashcrap is real and a big menace. It all began with enterprising brand managers seeking out catchy phrases for brand recall and quickly went downhill from there. Everyone joined in and we moved from hashtags to hashcrap all over the place. News Television has played a major hand in this mess, every channel wants a piece of the proverbial hashtag pie and they are cramming social media with mediocre and often ridiculous hashtags. Then there are the political hashtivists who hash the hell out of topics with tags. And then there’s us, everything from a coffee to a visit to the toilet is hastagged now. If there isn’t a tag, it didn’t happen! That’s the scenario now.
The Troll Army under your bed
The single worst side effect of the social media movement is the existence and profitable operations of entire armies of trolls that can be paid or motivated otherwise to brutally take on anyone and leave them scarred for life. Please note that I am not talking about activists with an agenda here, I am talking about armies of the shady ones that will get downright nasty with anyone without even thinking twice. They will attack every aspect of your personal life and tear it to shreds. Name calling, swearing, abusing and even personal stalking is par for the course for these characters hiding in the underbelly of every social media platform. They have forced many a good denizen offline permanently with their attacks. Every platform is struggling to manage and eradicate this rash that is spreading too fast.
Given the above discussion. How social do you think social media has made us? Tell me. I am listening!