The Medium is the Message ... in the news

Social Media Either Starts, or Fuels The Riots in Egypt.

McLuhan Observation: When we overextend media, it creates an opposite effect of its intended purpose. Social media is suppose to connect people, and should in theory draw people closer together. Unless you've been living in a hole for the past five years, you have to know that this is by and large no longer the case. Social media has unintentionally caused people (saving for those who can mange it - instead of allowing it to manage them) to pull further away from each other in lieu of Zynga games and virtual casino add-ons; or it gives us the illusion of being more connected, despite the fact that the medium of the telegraph (the technology on which the internet is based) necessarily creates boundaries that prevents people from actually connecting. However, as an idea, virtual connection is good enough to sedate people into thinking they are connected.

In other spheres, social media has allowed web rage to flourish, and despite the fact that the internet should theoretically allow people to think before they speak, social media has been so overextended that we now simply see people's stream of consciousness. This has afforded people the ability to type without thinking ... and not even worry about deleting it. This fact is one of the reasons why I deleted my facebook account ... twice.

Many kids who have grown up with social media assume that digital friendship is an entirely appropriate part of the human experience. But the reality is that digital communication is a truncated form of human experience. We speak with personas, not persons, over the internet. Social video, far from being a medium that allows people to share their stories, has predominantly become a platform for people to spread hate, fear and (ironically) American culture to every corner of the globe.

A new form of social advertising has also crept into the social media sphere. People can now 'like' a product, (perhaps entering a contest by doing so), and the 'ad' will be placed on your facebook timeline. As people see the ad, they will see a 'real person' promoting the product. It's the new form of the 'testimony ad', except there is no testimony ... and we know nothing at all about the product except that someone you know likes it. Well, we all know that this must make the product legit, right? right? I knew you were smarter than that! But even if we disregard the ad, the visual image of the product has been implanted into our minds without our permission. That's the real issue here ... that we are all seeing things that can't be un-seen ... and it's all happening under our noses without our permission.

To be fair, there are shining moments for social media. It allows us to rally together in support of worthy causes, pray for and encourage one another even if we can't be physically present, and it allows us to keep in regular contact with family and friends when we aren't close. The benefits are many and obvious, but the harm is arguably just as great, if not greater.

For me, the problems far outweigh the benefits of social media, and so I use it in the most limited scope. I still prefer the good old telephone, or when possible a face-to-face conversation over any technologically mediated experience ... including this blog. The real challenge for me then is to put this value into practice, because I also thoroughly enjoy the many marvels of computer technology.


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