EXTRA

OPINION| Social Media and the Social Dilemma

In 1990, 3% of Americans said they have no close friends. In 2020, the number had risen to %15. You’d think that with technology and the advent of the mobile phone, we’d be closer and more friendly. In deed, what in true of America is generally true in the rest of the world, so follow me.

But connections made through social media are not as real as we once thought. Social media has created a simulation of reality, one that we mistake for reality itself. This has created a social divide in us such that, we now only need to see a friend’s status update or post to know they’re okay. No longer do we need to see someone’s face, hear their voice to know they’re well.

In fact, many consider visits and calls this days as an invasion of privacy. We’d rather shout “good morning fam” on the streets(timelines/statuses/posts) of social media than send a personal “good morning.”

But we fail to understand that just like Prince Akeem’s neighbours didn’t care about his on-the-streets “good morning my neighbours” greeting, most of your “fam” here on these streets just don’t care. They are just too polite to give you the response Prince Akeem got in Coming to America. The fact is that we were not made to be seeing each other everyday.

We are not just wired as such. Being this close soon degenerates into over familiarity, hence the social dilemma we now find ourselves in. The challenge before all of us today is to learn how to use social media in a way that we will not be caught up in it.

We have created a beast in the form of the reactions or feedbacks we get from our social media activities. Ever wondered why Facebook, Twitter & Instagram all don’t have dislike button? Even YouTube recently removed the dislike feature.

We curate our lives around these short term reactions(hearts, likes, thumbs-up) we get from our social media activity and we conflict that with truth and reality.

Hyper-reality

Whether it is stories, pictures or information, social media has become over-curated. As time has gone by, it has forced society into a state of hyper-reality. Hyper-reality was a term coined by French sociologist, Jean Baudrillard in 1981.

A hyper-real scenario features a world where the simulations are so real that they become indistinguishable from reality itself. The real world and the simulated world become one, riding them of their boundaries.

As a consequence, nothing in our culture is true anymore, all that we are left with is a representation or a copy of reality. Some, especially those in Nigeria, may argue that we are not quite at that point yet. But all the pictures we post, posts we share, messages we type and media that we consume online create a personalised world, different from the real world. Such that we spend our days navigating through this personalised world that we have made and in our minds, this digital world replaces reality and real people. Given enough time, this digital reality becomes more important to us than the real world. That’s why people press phones till they get hit by a car.

Furthermore, algorithms dictate how your digital world will look like and as time progresses our digital world drifts further away from what is true and real.

For instance, most of the major controversies online do not exist in the real world. Another example is the life you see people living on Instagram is scarcely real.

Categories: EXTRA, TECHNOLOGY

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