By Sam Naylor

A feeling of instant gratification is on the menu and I know where I rush to get my fix. For most of us social media has become a daily part of our lives. How many of us wake up in the morning and check our social media presence? It is one of those little habits that has become a fixture of my daily routine and one that we’re finding increasingly difficult to disconnect from. We’ll just scroll one more time, just click that last video, read the article from that last link. Facebook is a great way to get your opinions out to all 1,125 of your ‘closest friends’ and for you to experience theirs. It can often feel like an extension of our own thought process, that we could just post that instantaneous nugget of knowledge as a status update. In fact Facebook cares that much about what we have to say that it politely asks “What’s on your mind?”, urging us to divulge in an opinion that it oh so wants to hear. The false companionship and the sense of familiarity that social media apps give us are aspects that keep us coming back, which have us glued to virtual text on a screen rather than worrying about dialogues set in the ‘real world’. Facebook is not a substitute for our own opinions.

We click the app to feel connected to people around us as this is what we’ve learnt to be the easiest way

It’s fantastic to read so many opinions with a slight variation flash up across our newsfeeds. It’s fantastic only to a point, because that many burning thoughts, each craving a response in the form of a like, a share, or a comment, can be overwhelming. We click the app to feel connected to people around us as this is what we’ve learnt to be the easiest way. To share the memories and opinions of people we know whenever the urge claims us. But the more we read through social media the more muddled our own heads become; with so many viewpoints to consider our own stance on something we thought to be true, starts to feel a little rocky. We become too bogged down in what appears true and false from the multitude of messages on my device that we partially lose sight of constructing meaningful debates in the day-to-day. As if the two sides of arguments popping up on our newsfeeds are the only ones out there. There’s an easy solution, just delete the app, deactivate your account – no one is forcing us to be on Facebook. The feeling of rapid yet fabricated connection helps to alleviate the isolation of the daily routine and keeps our thumbs fixed to touchpad.

Blurting out whatever pops into your head isn’t difficult and we can become partially used to this on Twitter or Facebook

Issues arise when social media dialogue bleeds into everyday encounters. The ease of inflammatory remarks (on both sides) that permeates social media platforms can be confusing when brought into reality. This becomes particularly prevalent when a topic captures the wider local, national or even global interest; people can take to social media making snap judgements on the events in hand without taking too much else into consideration. Blurting out whatever pops into your head isn’t difficult and we can become partially used to this on Twitter or Facebook, safe in the knowledge that we can just delete the words on the screen if we have second thoughts. Daily discussion face-to-face often needs more tact and speedy forethought; once the words are out there they can’t be deleted or edited with a few clicks and taps. That is not to say open debates should be discouraged. Far from it – we need to encourage more dialogue between people that is not immediately reactionary but holds the opportunity to expand and contest the views we already hold. To merely tell someone that their view is wrong or stupid isn’t encouraging any sort of construction towards the issue, it can entrench beliefs and prevent future discussion.

social media zombie 1

( © Marketing Land)

When social media and everyday speech becomes muddied with clickbait or soundbites then it is time to challenge the credibility. Just regurgitating snippets from the media and politicians does not make it fact, we need to look deeper than that. Social media is not a substitute for finding out other perspectives. Part of the appeal of social media for me is the ability to observe and think about what other people are thinking, but this is a poor replacement for real engagement. We find it easier to literally sit back in a chair and read other people’s opinions as it seems less daunting than forming any concrete ones of our own. Clearly this needs to be rectified and creating wider discussion between actual human interactions is one way to attempt this. So too is looking beyond what is right in front of us. It is time for me at least to break the monotonous scroll, swipe, click habit and immerse ourselves in more meaningful forms of debate.

(Cover image © Steve Cutts)

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