Everybody has a different view of social media: enthusiastic, annoyed, indifferent. However, when it comes to being amusing, nothing beats the apocalyptic view of social media. Nothing makes me happier than those wonderful people who view Facebook as a harbinger of the End of Days. They’ve become increasingly rare, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to read Andrew Keen go on about how Facebook threatens to “Zuck up” the human race.
Now, you probably have come across Keen’s thesis before, and he doesn’t really tread any new ground. In a nutshell he says that the endless quest for friends which people seem to think that Facebook users are trying to get is destroying our self-esteem and transforming our lives into a narcissistic cycle of never-ending “likes” and friend requests. He discusses privacy concerns and the idea that our use of social media is desensitizing us to reality. Hilariously, he ends the article with a link to his Twitter.
You might say that I work in the field and practically all of my friends are employed at one social media agency or another and therefore I have a vested interest in defending the medium. While you can say that, based on my career, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, I like to think that I do have some sense of objectivity when it comes to this sort of thing.
With that being said, I think I can be pretty level-headed when I say that social media is not destroying us. First of all, we don’t spend our lives trying to gather as many friends as possible. Yes, there are the few of us who do but, unless you’re a brand, most people are perfectly happy being friends with, well, their friends.
Privacy concerns can be an issue, of course, but I hardly think that will destroy the human race. I do agree that social media as a whole would benefit from being a bit more private, but I genuinely feel that we’re moving in this direction anyway, so this will not be a big issue.
Finally, as for the whole “desensitizing us to reality” point of view, I don’t think social media keeps us from enjoying our lives. If anything it has given me the opportunity to get in touch with old friends and organize meetings with them. Connection is the key to social media and the ease of doing so is bringing people closer together, not farther apart.