Give humanity anonymity and see the true potential of its depravity.— Xenocrates
|We are repeatedly trying to simulate human behaviour online, with dramatic results.|
Normally we assume that humanity makes changes within its structure to accommodate for change for the better. That is usually a cyclical process. The process usually has hiccups and the hiccups are usually ironed out. In every case however, these cyclical changes transform the human animal, permanently, apparently for the better, but ultimately for the worse...at least until another cycle begins. Here, allow me to give you an example of what I really mean:
Checks and Balances
Nature spawned life as an accidental byproduct of physics and chemistry. In response, life became a thing that became preoccupied with its self preservation. In so doing, life became a tense balancing act of progress and egress. For every two steps forward, life must take a step backward. If it doesn't take a step backward, it will go too far forward and walk the proverbial plank into extinction. That's how it's always been—well at least until man finally come along.
When nature created grass, it also created zebras to keep it's growth in check. When nature created zebras, it also created lions to keep zebra populations in check. When nature created lions, it also created man to tame lions, keeping them in check. When nature created man, it created disease to keep man in check. This was fine until man eventually invented medicine.
Now because of medicine, man started to live longer, long enough to come up with innovative new ideas with more regularity. We invented our way into an advanced civilization that over populated the earth, taxed its resources, eventually becoming a detriment to all other life on the planet. The ecosystem is no longer in balance. But it appears that while we may have temporarily defeated disease, perhaps nature had one deadly card left up its green sleeve:
It is man's intelligence that will become the architect of his ultimate undoing. We've already begun to see man's intelligence destroy mankind. We discovered fire to cook our food and then destroyed our homes with it. We invented religions to advance our thinking and then killed each other over it. We invented nuclear power to provide sustainable energy and destroyed our lands with it. We invented artificial food to feed the hungry and ruined our health with it. We invented computers that made our lives easier to live and far easier to ruin.
It is that last invention that really has me worried. Not only have computers taken up a near irreplaceable role in our lives, but the services we now use them to run have taken over our lives. These services are slowly, one by one, replacing the essential things that effectively made us human. At the risk of sounding like a doomsday prophet, online social networking is probably the harbinger of the beginning of the end of our species–at least as we now know it.
Evolution in Reverse
The advent of social networking has fundamentally transformed how we use computers on the internet and ultimately how to we relate to each other. Social networking, like many of the other things that man has made, is a simulation of a simulacrum of something that we have, through a course of cognitive evolution, so poorly implemented. In this case, social networking is an unimaginably poor simulation of the simulacrum of communication that we call language.
Language is already a poor communicator. Language is an attempt at encoding ideas such that they can be transferred between minds. However, the encoding process behind language is so simplistic, that only a tiny percentage of the idea ever gets across. There is no exception to to this. No matter how complex a language has evolved, the idea communicated will never retain the sophistication of its inception in the mind of the communicator. This is why memes exist. Memes are little more than randomly generated axioms of poorly communicated ideas.
Apropos, social networking by extension, being a simulation of language (which is itself a simulacrum of communication), is taking something that is already poorly implemented in our societies and distilling it down even further to more simplified memes that, for the most part, obscure the sheer complexity of human intelligence between humans involved in the process.
The end result is that the human minds at either end of the spectrum adjust "down" to match the simplicity of the communication strategy. In other words, they assume a lower level of intelligence to match the simplicity of the communication medium. We'll call this the "stupid mode". This "stupid mode" that is used is now so ubiquitous, that it has now come to characterize all forms of communication across social media. Here, I'll provide a few examples:
- Using Acronyms for human Behaviour — If you have ever typed "LOL", "LMAO", "ROFL", "ROFLMAO", "DWL" or any other variation of the set of acronyms to denote laughter (or any other emotion for that matter), then you've engaged in stupid mode.
- Falsely Denoting Human Behaviour — If you have ever used any acronym for human behaviour when it didn't apply (such as beginning or ending a sentence with LOL when you're not actually laughing out loud), then you've engaged in stupid mode. In fact, if you've even used a smiley face :) when you're not smiling or to communicate some form of tepid friendliness, you're engaging in stupid mode.
- Channeling Memes to Communicate Sentiment — If you have ever reused one of the hundreds of thousands of memes that have flooded the internet (such as Success Kid or Grumpy Cat) to quickly communicate a feeling or sentiment (whether positive or negative is irrelevant), then you've engaged in stupid mode.
- "Trolling" — If you have ever deliberately sought to elicit a negative emotional reaction from others by using incendiary remarks or otherwise "pushing their buttons" (especially if it involves others), then you've engaged in stupid mode.
- ...there are many more, but you get the idea.
Stupid mode is a quick way of communicating non verbal communication through a medium that cannot handle such communication. While it is a fast way of communicating sentiment, it is also a faster means of miscommunication. Because stupid mode cannot handle all of the axioms of language, (which by itself cannot handle the complexity of full body communication), it often leads to confusion, especially where new terms (i.e. memes) are spontaneously generated on the fly (sporadically born of popular culture) that no one else yet understands.
Communication and Intelligence
Either way, this type of "adjust down" communication shreds the intelligence requirement for standard communication, essentially propagating a community of mutually devolved human beings. In other words, we are literally becoming more stupid to communicate more quickly. We are trading intelligence for communication. We are literally trading substance for quantity.
It is difficult enough to communicate deep, profound ideas with language since the vast portion of our communication isn't with language. There are still some ideas that can never be encoded with it. Language is so limited in its capability, that even if you were to succinctly describe sadness, you can never communicate the feeling of sadness unless you are in person. Sadness described in song is still more powerful than sadness described in a poem, because a song communicates tone and other emotions, which words alone cannot encode.
How much less then does social media communicate the true nature of human sentiment? We cannot perceive hurt through a Facebook status update. We cannot feel someone's love or pain through a tweet. A funny meme will never communicate the true humor behind a clever joke. Using an acronym like GTFO can mean either anger, banter or sarcasm—even in context.
In fact, the true limitation of online communication is probably best demonstrated in its inability communicate these abstract ideas without explicitly spelling it out. Double entendres and innuendos are even more difficult to encode. Sentiments like sarcasm are next to impossible to encode, since sarcasm in written language looks like any other form of written language. Sarcasm requires tone of voice to be immediately effective—and that is lost here.
The end result of this shredding of communication for the sake of speed over effectiveness, is that we are creating a culture of humans who are less empathetic, less emotionally intelligent, more callous and more prone to unfeeling cruelty. Through this culture of online social networking, we are filtering away much of the communication that makes us human. As a result, we are becoming less human. We are slowly becoming the robots we've always feared.
It is no small wonder then, that the anonymity of the internet has reduced most of our humanity to quibbling piles of callous ferocity. From the early days of the pre-Facebook age where bulletin boards were the home of frequent "flame wars" to the modern post-Facebook age where cyber-bulling has become a fatal problem, the internet has taken away so much of our humanity, that it has quickly become a place that celebrates and encourages ignorance.
You need not look much further than the callous comments on YouTube between perfect strangers over an inconsequential idea, the vicious trolling of female personalities like Adria Richards on Twitter from people who know nothing else about her, and the vile verbal abuse of socially awkward teens on Facebook to see how animalistic social networking has reduced much of our humanity to. Give humanity anonymity and see the true potential of its depravity.
Social networks not only filter away our emotional intelligence, but our cognitive intelligence as well. We have replaced so much of our real life friendships with fans, that we have now inexplicably valued being liked by thousands of anonymous individuals over having real life friendships. It's as if we want to embrace our inner celebrity to attain some modicum of the shallowness of the media effigies we worship. We like being liked so much, that being adored by thousands of anonymous souls has become a numerical quantification of our self worth.
This is despite the fact that women in particular are especially at risk of being targeted by mindless drones who are only fans/followers because of their pictures. Young women these days display a remarkable lack of intelligence, even more so than women of previous generations. If you ask a young woman to strip naked for a perfect stranger, 9 out of 10 times she would decline, and yet, there are photos of her on Facebook or Twitter and now, Instagram in little more than underwear. If that doesn't blow your mind, then let me try again:
The Social Experiment
I've had a Twitter handle since 2010. I've never used it for social networking as much as I've used it to publicize the contents of this blog. It really came in handy for connecting with readers to share controversial ideas and following up on the latest world developments. I have never really used my handle to do much else. But then I noticed something quite curious:
There is a curious behaviour shift between Twitter profiles that were designed to propagate content (such as those created for news organisations) as opposed to ones that were created by personalities (like celebrities). I noticed that personalities engender a LOT more traffic (thousands, and in cases, MILLIONS of times more traffic) via social networks than news organisations. Even more interesting, is that 99% of the content of this traffic is meaningless.
It's complete drivel!
Are humans more fascinated by rubbish from a likable "personality" as opposed to meaningful content from a non personality? I wanted to test that theory and so about a year later, in 2011, I decide to create a second social media profile, not as a representative of a blog, but as a representative of a person. I initially wanted to use it test the waters of this social networking paradigm. That's when a new opportunity arose to examine our online behaviour.
This is what I found:
The Facebook Protocol
|A place where everyone goes to be liked—whether they are likable or not.|
Many people will tell you that Facebook is a great way to link up with people you thought you lost contact with. That is both true and misleading. Virtually every social network that came before Facebook afforded the same opportunity. Facebook is just the latest most successful version of that. It too will one day go the way of dinosaurs like Hi5, Friendster and MySpace.
Remember them? Exactly.
Anyway, first I started out by using a very real manifestation of myself on Facebook. Almost immediately, people I had been out of touch with since childhood started coming out of the woodwork. First it was in occasional discoveries that trickled in. Soon, the trickle of old friends occurred in full blown floods. The more people you rediscover, the more connections you re-establish in shorter spaces of time. It's an explosively exponential sequence of re-connections.
After you re-establish those long lost connections, much of Facebook's novelty disappears (just like Hi5, Friendster and MySpace). There's a reason why you and those people are no longer in touch. In most cases, there was nothing substantial there to sustain a friendship in the first place. That's why as soon as you moved on with your lives, the connection between you faded away. That's why Facebook's engineers reframed the business model of the site.
Now Facebook is in the business of reselling your personal information for profit. Of course it denies this vehemently while Facebook ads flood your page. But let's face facts, your personal information is its greatest asset. If everyone on Facebook suddenly decided to withdraw their membership, Facebook would quickly go bankrupt. Why? Because none of the people who actually have money, goods or services to market will need to use it anymore. It's that simple.
Furthermore, to fill the void, Facebook fills its content cupboards with online games, stumbling upon a brilliant way for you not just to reconnect with your old friends, but for you to micro-share every, single, banal, moment of your trivial life, through social media applications that use Facebook as a spam portal. If you have had to block certain messages, "mute" certain applications, or "filter" updates from certain individuals, then that is a clear sign that Facebook has exhausted its true usefulness to you. You're just sticking around for the cheap popcorn.
What's popcorn? Other people's lives, of course.
Popcorn is all the shallow drama that a lot of your friends get into online that would have been best reserved for offline. Popcorn is all the microscopic updates that people feel the need to share that communicates absolutely nothing useful. Popcorn is the inadvertent entertainment parlayed when someone exposes their stupidity. Popcorn is that hot babe you know who you don't have the courage to ask out, but follow around on the internet anyway because she constantly uploads semi nude pictures of herself, without securing them first.
Like the empty calories of the delicious snack, Popcorn entertainment is throwaway minutia of other people's (often sordid) reality that you would much rather watch than be a part of. It's the same reason why you like to see your ex-lover get fat or live vicariously through the epic weekends of more outgoing people you don't know in person. Most of the people who thrive on Facebook enjoy this popcorn, because it is instant, meaningless, throwaway entertainment. It's like reality TV, but without a pesky script. Chaos it seems, is more entertaining than order.
I'll give you an example:
What is the point of "friending" people on a social network if you don't like them in real life? I find this most common among women. They call each other "bitches" and "cunts" offline, but yet they are "friends" on Facebook. If that's not bizarre enough for you, then consider the fact that many people (again, mostly women) seem to only befriend people they don't like just so that they can keep tabs on developments in their personal lives. So, why would they do that?
They even "like" what they say, just so they can follow the comments on their status updates. Apparently, it seems the rules on Facebook are fundamentally different from real life and words don't mean online what they mean in standard English—but never mind. It appears that the original intent of the like button has evolved to function as something else entirely. I'd actually second the motion that Facebook needs not only a dislike button, but others as well:
If this function existed on Facebook, I would be using it wantonly and indiscriminately. It would work in exactly the same way as the "like" button, without miscommunicating users' true intentions. I think that would actually make Facebook a lot more interesting and just a tad closer to reality instead of functioning as nothing more than a staging ground for people to amass in droves to have their petty egos stroked out of its insecurity with a "like" that isn't. But if you think Facebook is really wack, wait until you see the nonsense I discover on Twitter.
The Twitter Protocol
Twitter is less a social networking platform than Facebook is, but somehow it has become one and the same. Originally meant to be a platform to propagate the Short Messaging Service stack across the internet, Twitter has quickly evolved into part micro-blogging, part news feed (bye bye RSS feeds) part stripped-down-version-of-facebook, part instant-messaging-replacement. While it is not empirically better than any of the other services I've just mentioned, Twitter does successfully coalesce them all into one service, however pointlessly.
The functional difference between Twitter and Facebook is... nothing; absolutely, nothing. The same weird behaviours that you notice on Facebook can be observed on Twitter. The key difference between them is that Twitter has more males than females. This is because females instinctively prefer a social networking platform that more readily rewards them for participation using jargons more akin to natural language (such as the "likes" and "pokes" on Facebook) as opposed to the names of identical functions on Twitter (retweets, favourites).
For the same reason, YouTube, which uses a very similar function (but for videos and not necessarily pictures) but includes a "dislike" function (unlike Facebook) will never be as popular as Facebook. Facebook's greatest strength is not its vast numbers of female subscribers (more than any other network). It's real strength is how it only attempts to digitally appropriate positive reinforcement. So whereas a YouTube video can be down voted, a Facebook post can only be "liked". There's no means of registering a "dislike" on Facebook.
Insecure women, rejoice!
Pictures on Twitter
Now unlike Twitter, you can create albums of your photos on Facebook, even if they contain a thousand photos of your face. No one is more narcissistic about their face than women. Women who know they're pretty will often take exactly the same photo, with the same facial expression, over and over again, with a different label, each equally as banal as they are meaningless: "This is me on Monday." "This is me on Tuesday." "This is me on a rainy day." "This is me on my period". "This is me about to get the D." "This is me about to find the Higgs Boson".
Actually that last one never happens. Most people care nothing for intellect on social networks — not unless you're pretty. In fact, I've discovered that unequivocally, the fundamental premise for friendship on a social network is to have a pretty profile picture. Why is this, you ask? Well, no online social network has successfully captured all of the key functions of social networking. So online social network users rely on a severely limited means by which to do so:
Your profile picture.
To demonstrate how dramatically a profile picture changes social interactivity, scour Facebook and Twitter for accounts that use some random image as opposed to accounts that use a face. You will notice that with the exception of corporations behind recognized brands, individuals who use a non-facial photo will attract far fewer social links than those with a face. This goes doubly true if you use a facial photo that is for all intents and purposes, "attractive".
To prove it, you can use a stock photo of a "John Everyman" or a "Jane Everywoman" who looks like the ideal human phenotype of the demographic of which your friends are ethnically representative (i.e. Caucasian if you have a lot of white friends, African if your friends are mostly black, Asian if your friends are mostly Asian, and so on — it doesn't matter). You will eventually notice that you engender a massive number of friend requests (Facebook) and followers (Twitter) from the opposite sex, even if all you ever talk about is quantum physics.
The impact of this is far easier to notice on Twitter which by design is pretty open ended and less secure. You will start to notice being followed by members of the opposite sex who, if you were to judge only by their tweets, would think have no discernible reason for wanting following you in the first place. In fact, if these female followers don't have a facial profile photo up, they'll go out, get their hair done (or get a weave put in), take a new picture and update their Twitter profile. Even when you are not trying to, apparently sex is on their mind.
The Reasons we follow
Unlike picture oriented social networks, men are more likely to follow Twitter accounts based on post content. Post a lot of content with cars, sports, politics, creative media, nudity, funny memes, tech or clever expressions and you will whip up quite a following among men, even if your profile picture is that of a rock. However, if you refashion your Twitter account with a pretty male face and talk about nothing but rocks and the most brain numbing subject imaginable, in time, you will notice that you whip up a platoon of wet loined female followers.
I'm not kidding. Go try it out for yourself.
Women are more likely to communicate using stupid mode (they "lol" for every tweet) for someone they follow on Twitter if they have a pretty profile pic than if they didn't have a facial picture at all. Men by contrast will post oodles of adulation ("hawt!", "I would lay my d*ck so far up that ass", etc.) showing how much they appreciate each photo of her showing only her legs, her face (if she has a pretty one), or her body (if it's worth masturbating to), irrespective of how good (or bad) her profile picture is. Go scour Twitter yourself and see what I mean.
This phenomenon is by far less noticeable on Facebook. The experiment would, however, produce the same results if it were conducted on the version of Facebook that existed 5 years ago, which, like today's Twitter was far less secure and far more open ended. Never the less, with careful scrutiny, you will notice that the same phenomenon exists on Facebook, which has become more a digital census of humanity than a fun way of catching up with old friends.
Facebook was originally intended to be what Twitter is today. The only reason why it isn't is because Facebook provided more ways for people to document themselves succinctly. It's interesting how if the government asked people for the same information they put on Facebook how they would complain about "big government" and yet give Facebook this information freely under the guise of social networking. I wonder where they think Facebook managers pay their taxes? You do notice how filling out a Facebook profile feels a lot like completing a government census form, right? I can't be the only person who has noticed this.
Not so with Twitter. Twitter is much more Laissez faire.
As a result, Facebook users demanded greater means of securing their information (which is still less secure than if the government had it—but never mind). Twitter remains less secure precisely because it makes no such demands of its user's information—even though they use it in exactly the same way. With that said, it appears that Twitter encourages the kind of human shallowness commonly associated with dumb blondes, even if these people are neither dumb nor blonde. I suppose that's what would happen if you use a news feed for social networking.
Corollary: On The matter of friendship
But here's the real kicker: If you had met everyone on your Facebook profile or everyone of your Twitter followers before they became a Facebook friend or followed you on Twitter respectively, none of the above behaviours would occur. That's right. Social networking forces humans to become more shallow with each other (essentially voiding the value of that first impression), precisely because online social networking is not actually social networking.
The very name of this online phenomenon is a pernicious misnomer. It forces you to use less of your brain for the equivalent task that you would be expected to perform in person. The end result is that any friendships engendered online are far more shallow and meaningless if they weren't preceded by actual, in person friendship. Concordantly, the parameters for the severance of such "digital" friendships are as fragile as the computer memory they are ultimately stored in. The end result is that you under develop that crucial part of your brain.
Online Facebook/Twitter "friends" whom you've never met are not really friends at all. The trouble is that people (especially women) treat these fake digital friendships with the same degree of temerity that they do with their real friendships. Perhaps that emotional barrier is harder not to cross online for women than for men, who throw these things around with the same degree of callousness that they would a used condom. Women on the other hand can even get "hurt" for something as simple as nondisclosure. I'm not even kidding here.
Search Failbook for examples.
When Pictures are only worth a few words
|It is weird that this picture is much more meaningful than when humans do the same thing?|
I mentioned earlier that women especially love to advertise themselves via self portraits on Facebook. Now while you can do the same thing on Twitter, such photos are much harder to find as they often get buried under mounds of trite expressions of when they go to the bathroom, who they're breaking up with this week, and a million different photos of their food.
Yeah, their food.
That's another strange thing that social media girls love to do: They take thousands of photos of their food. Seriously. For the older readers among my blog's audience, this is actually a thing. Women, for some inexplicable reason (as if over sharing to perfect strangers isn't strange enough), love to go out to eat just so that they can take photos of their food and post it for the adulation of their followers. The word "attention whore" almost doesn't apply here, since they will correct you with the new term for this befuddling inexplicability: "foodie".
I don't get it. I must be getting old.
Now it's not just women who do this. Men do it too — but mostly younger guys of the pretty sort. You can usually tell that when someone likes to share lots of photos of their food that they are also likely to have a pretty face. Now what you may not (or may already have?) realized is that pretty people love to self indulge on the internet. It's a cheap inexpensive way of scoring "likes" (Facebook), "faves" (Twitter) and "hearts" (introducing Instagram), which immediately translates to a rush of dopamine that makes them feel good about themselves.
Sounds pretty cheap, right? But wait! There's more!
There is a positive correlation between people who share LOTS of photos of themselves (and any other banal aspect of their lives, such as their food) and their residual self perception (usually manifested as a pretty profile picture). People who over share on the internet are one of two types. They are either wildly insecure and thus seek attention to shore up that insecurity or they are wildly narcissistic and so seek attention just for the sake of attention.
What better way to do this than through pictures?
In almost any Facebook profile of a female with a pretty face, there'll be almost as many photos of her food as there are of her face. Don't take my word for it. Go scour your fake friends on Facebook and Twitter to prove it for yourself. You will notice a similar correlation between men with a pretty face and their food. Sounds feminine? Not really! Men are more narcissistic than women—they're just narcissistic about their personality—not their face.
In fact, social media men share in a different way. Men generally share less photos of themselves on any social network. They tend to prefer sharing photos of what they own: cars, dogs, electronics, property, their girlfriend, their wallet and in the closest thing to Twitter girl behaviour, if they have them, they like to show off their bodies. What's the point of taking dozens of self shots of your abs and triceps? The same thing as Twitter girls taking dozens of photos of their face. It's the same thing. It's all about sex appeal. It is raw and very potent.
—on all networks.
In fact, part of the social experiment that I devised between Facebook and Twitter was to see if there was a modicum of difference in intellectual appeal on Facebook as opposed to that of Twitter. Twitter is far less glossy than Facebook and relies more on text content than Facebook. Facebook and Instagram however lean more heavily towards visual appeal. Generally, you are more likely to score followers on Twitter because of content (especially if you use an unappealing profile picture). It's the very opposite on Facebook and Instagram.
The quaint limitations of Twitter in the photo department is solved by Instagram. In fact, Instagram is essentially Facebook stripped down to it's most used component: Photos. Virtually every one of Instagram's heaviest content contributers is female. The vast majority of the Instagram male population are lurkers. What is a lurker you ask? The term originated from the bulletin boards of the 1980's. It describes people who only read, but don't contribute. Similarly, Instagram's heaviest lurkers are male. Men love to look at women and women love to show off themselves ...even if subconsciously, for the sexual pleasure of perfect strangers.
I praise the few Instagram subscribers who use it to take very interesting photos of nature, interesting camera shots on otherwise mundane views, unusual sights or scenes, even amateur photographers who document some of the more interesting occurrences of life on this planet—pictures worth a thousand words. Those people usually have one (or two if so many) photos of themselves, which are rarely self portraits. Oh, and they're also usually, male.
For the rest of you attention whores (and I'm using the term to succinctly describe the rest of you in every sense of the phrase), most people who subscribe to your Instagram feed are kind of happy that you are so willing to be nude (or semi nude?) for perfect strangers, even though you would never do this for the same people in person. This very fact not only exposes how foolish you actually are, but it shows that you lack both foresight and good judgement.
It demonstrates that, irrespective of the work of pioneering women like Susan B. Anthony and Emily Pankhurst, that you, the lot of you, as women, have collectively undone all of their hard work to enable women to be perceived as more than pieces of meat to be paraded around as objects of desire as soon as puberty grants your hips the symmetrical shape we men desire.
I'm not complaining. I enjoy reveling in your nakedness, just like every other man out there who likes to see a semi naked female. Would I respect you though? Probably not. I'm not going to pretend that I don't enjoy seeing you so potently exposed for all the world to see. But I can tell you this much: If your parents had any idea of what you were up to on the internet, maybe (if there is a shred of dignity among them) they would not approve of having their little girl grow up to be an internet whore. Allow yourself to be judged for your character.
—not your sex appeal. (That goes for you too, guys)
And to the rest of you guys posting shots of your rock hard bodies: I'm not trying to convince you to stop, but consider this for a minute: If all the women who became fans because of your photos became an option, how many of them exactly are you counting on not chasing another guy with harder abs? Wait. That question is irrelevant. Why? Because anyone who tries to get attention by self exposure on the internet is not going after quality. It's really about quantity.
It's not about the quality of the love of a single woman who is quietly being ignored. It's the quantity of women who heart, like, fave these photos who, for the most part, you probably won't sleep with anyway. It's not about the quality of the friendships you would maintain based on who you really are, but the quantity of pseudo friends following on these social networks, who serve for little more than numbers to be counted, that mindlessly pad your ego in response to a biological unction. It's all about quantity. So never mind my scathing critique.
Please, as you were.
Now don't get me wrong: I love the shape of the human body (particularly, that of the female body). I think it's a beautiful thing. However, is it absolutely necessary to show off our bodies on the internet? How desperate for attention are we, such that we need to show off our nakedness to the world? Is this a new paradigm shift in our society, where technology is so advanced that porn is now self made? If so, then we are only repeatedly contributing pictures that are each only worth a few words. We are now contributing so much that is worth so little.
In finality, it all amounts to this:
Top 5 Findings of Social Media UsersI've been conducting a social experiment via social media for about three years. I've amassed a great deal about my fellow humans and the curious way in which their behaviour changes through the filter of social media. Now my findings are not strictly scientific, but rather, like any other description of human behaviour, describes a general case which is invariably true for virtually every social network. It shows how we are changing as a species and what we are changing into. Each of these findings is going to hit home for someone. Don't worry, I'm probably not talking about you... not specifically anyway. You're probably not that important.
Finding #1: It encourages oversharing
|No, really. It is.|
Nobody needs to know who you slept with. Nobody needs to see a transcript of you breaking up with your lover. Nobody needs read you swear like a sailor. We don't need a play by play of every sports game, every television program, or the unbearably useless information regarding the minutia of your day. We don't need to know when you had lunch, what you had for lunch, where you are, when you went to the gym, when you left the gym, what games you play, who you're playing with, what your high scores are or when you take a bath. Seriously.
Remember those days when little girls would keep diaries where they would write down their hopes and dreams in meticulous detail? Well now they've transferred that activity online. Who needs diaries when you've got Twitter and Facebook? Unlike a blog where all you get is a pesky comment or two (if any), social networks provide its users (both male and female) with the opportunity to share whatever they like among a group of people they think they know.
This gives them the instant gratification of knowing who liked their post enough to like it, fave it, reblog it, retweet it, [insert your favourite social media validation technique here]. You can't get that with a diary. Heck, unless you're blogging through Tumblr, you can't even get that with a blog. I remember the days when the internet was a source where useful information was rampant. Now it's become a source of rampantly escalating, utterly useless information.
I remember when little girls would throw a fit if anyone read their diaries. Today, they put their diaries online for everyone see in sordid detail, how shallow, narcissistic and self absorbed they really are. A part of me wishes we could force these little girls (now grown up) to return to the quiet self respect of their diaries. It's like the entire world has gone stark raving mad and I'm the last intelligent person left. When did we lose our sense of dignity?
Finding #2: It empowers obnoxious behaviour
Because online social networking filters a lot of the other parameters (such as body language, tone of voice, eye contact, etc.) that feeds into our human intelligence, thereby enabling us to be social animals, we tend to think that behaviour executed online is consequence free. As a result, we tend to be more cruel, less tolerant, more obnoxious and less empathetic to other human beings online. Why? Because there's no instant feedback from their facial expressions, body language, etc. that would normally tell us when we have gone too far in our exchange.
This is why there is so much swearing online. This is why trolling and cyber bullying are regular and serious realities. This is why sexism, racism and other manifestations of social intolerance are so pervasive online. This is why there's always that one guy or girl who thinks they can know all about someone just by a few posts, or tweets, or photos, taken completely out of context. Social media is a poor simulation of human behaviour. The more we use it, the less humane we tend to behave, which is fast becoming a simulacrum of the animals we really are.
You will also find a greater prevalence of people more readily losing their cool over social media because of this filtration of emotional intelligence. It is much easier for someone to become offended over any medium that cannot encode subtle communication nuances like sarcasm. Half of the flame wars that occur online would never occur in a real, in person discussion. Most verbal "altercations" (if you can even call them that) that occur online are not necessarily spawned because of poor communicators, but largely because of a poor medium.
Finding #3: Most social media users are female
One of my most interesting discoveries is that the vast majority of social media users are women—women of all ages, and mostly for the same reason. The allure of social media is probably too hard to resist for women given its appeal to their emotional, right brain instinct. I can't say what percentage of the female population on social media use it strictly for business, but that is probably irrelevant. Even where business is their primary objective, you are far more likely to find female users with dozens of self portraits. Social media is a great way for them to garner many quick opportunities for vacuous self validation through others.
As such, it really shouldn't be surprising that even if the female population on every social network were to be leveled to exactly ½ of their population, the vast majority of all content on all social networks combined, (I would estimate 70%) would still come from females. They not only post more frequently and are more likely to over share, but post most of the content that exists on all social networks combined. Therefore, women have effectively defined social media.
Finding #4: Social media users are deeply insecure
Long before the Facebook age, I noticed something very interesting about the personalities of the most vocal people I would meet in chatrooms, instant messengers and bulletin boards: They were mostly shy. It took a while for me to realize that this should have been expected. Shy people tend to prefer the anonymity of the internet, where social cues from body language, eye contact and tone of voice don't apply—largely because they are invisible to all.
In a world where context becomes less relevant and interpretation is defined by a smiley face, these anonymous characters became one-eyed kings in the land of the blind. Of course, online social networking came along and changed all that. Now everyone is getting onto the internet, whether they are shy or not. However, the people who are less secure about themselves tend to be its heaviest users and usually have the most to say. Meet them in person and you will see a remarkable difference between their actual personalities and their online persona.
In fact, I can almost guarantee that many of the people who heavily use social networks are actually very poor at actual social networking. It's as if the medium has become an emotional crutch for their lack of actual social expertise. It has the same effect on their psychology as drinking orange flavoured soda in place of orange juice would on one's health. As a result, these people tend to respond more poorly to real social cues as opposed to ones generated within the context of online social networking. These people can become so emotionally stunted, that they behave a lot like a pilot who prefers flying a simulation than an actual 747.
By contrast, people who are good at actual social networking have far less content posted to the medium than those who aren't. So someone who is popular in real life (it doesn't have to be a celebrity), will have people in her online network of friends with far more social media content than they do. That's because people with real social networking skills tend to not prefer online social networking over the real deal for all the same reasons why a man who gets a lot of sex is less compelled to look at porn. For its greatest adherents, online social media fills a void in their real lives they are less capable of doing without a digital simulation.
Finding #5: Social media is a poor proxy of human emotion
Earlier, I mentioned how social media filters away all of the other key elements of human intelligence required for proper social interactivity. Not only does this shred our capacity for empathy and impair our ability to be genuinely social, but it also reduces our emotional intelligence. Under normal circumstances, anyone with a shred of intelligence would be able to tell a woman that you can't learn anything useful about a prospective date online. You can Google them all you want, but until you meet them, anything they put out there can be faked.
Somehow, this has not yet sunk in.
We still have a plethora of people using the internet to meet a prospective lover. How exactly is that supposed to work? Can you use the internet to succinctly determine when someone is lying without them exposing themselves as such? Can the internet tell you the other cues hidden in body language so that you can immediately tell if they are worth pursuing or not? It doesn't matter how truthful (or untruthful) someone is with their residual self image as portrayed online. The bottom line is that it can be controlled. The only thing they can't control is their body language. If you were successful in meeting a lover online, you were just VERY lucky. It doesn't matter how much eHarmony charges—you are still playing a numbers game.
eHarmony is one of those social networks that preys upon the intelligence of regular people who pay considerable sums of money to use their sophisticated algorithms to find good matches. The trouble with this model is that no matter how sophisticated the algorithms eHarmoney uses are, it is still playing roulette with people's emotions because all that it is doing is reducing the spectrum of possible lovers to ones that you can ideally match on paper.
eHarmony (and really any other romantic social network like it) cannot account for the "soft qualities" that make up a BIG portion of whether or not you and a prospective lover will kick it off. So 9 out of 10 times, you will find a guy or girl who only matches the things that you can quantitatively measure, but it cannot (and never will) be able to match the qualitative characteristics of what you would most value in a lover that you cannot describe on paper. Social networks can't do that. As of this writing, no computer software can (at least, not yet).
All social networks, irrespective of their design or purpose are poor proxies of human emotion that at best can only simulate human behaviour in all the same ways a two dimensional photograph can simulate a four dimensional universe—all while you pay $60 a month for a near miss. Like I said earlier, it's like playing roulette, only with your heart. You have a higher mathematical probability of encountering a suitable lover in the wild than you would online.
Lower animals know this. So why are we still so stupid?
Online Privacy: An alarming non issue
|SHOCKING: Most social media users care little about their privacy.|
Let me be the first to say that social networking is not all bad when done right. It's fair to say that the problem with social networks is not the software, nor its designers. The problem is the people who use them. Because social networks cannot replace human interactivity, we become a little less intelligent when we try to use them to replace our natural human instinct.
In modern societies, we are plunging into online social networking as though it is a new necessity, despite the fact that it dramatically changes our behaviour. It has bridged gaps between languages, cultures and continents in ways that would previously be unthinkable. However, the same technology that makes our lives easier to live, makes them easier to ruin.
Social networks are becoming a fairly permanent record of who you are, all while many of us continue to frolic, carefree, wantonly and indiscriminately, with reckless abandon, across these networks, oblivious to how the powerful oligarchs funding these brilliant silicon valley startups are shamelessly harvesting details of your life in permanent storage for resale to corporations.
It's like today's kids have become re-socialized to care less about what part of their private lives remains private, and have alternatively chosen to make most of it public, with no filter (except those applied to their semi-nude Instagram photos). Only two decades ago (as if this writing), the very idea of social networking as we know it would be considered dangerous. But even the danger of over-exposure pales in comparison to what it is doing to our psychology.
If that is not yet obvious, then consider the fact that over a period of three years, conducting the same social experiment, I've come across hundreds of individuals of varying degrees of intelligence and the experiment only became obvious to approximately nine guys and two girls—that's 11 people out of an estimated 400. That's a woefully damning indication of the intelligence level among the sample of people I've encountered online—but now it gets worse:
Evolving to a Technological Singularity
It appears that one of two things is true: The first possibility is that my thinking has become obsolete and the paradigm has completely shifted. Perhaps this is now an age where the world disapproves of anyone who doesn't expose the true essence of themselves on a public form, taking a huge risk with all the other individuals in the world who may or may not have done the same, and can do very real damage with that level of exposure for no particular reason. If that's the case, then what is it being driven by? Is this YouTube generation one where anyone can be a superstar simply by virtue of having an internet connection? Is that it?
The second possibility is that with each level of technological advancement, we have spawned a new generation of users that are more technologically intelligent, but less emotionally intelligent. It's as if we are gradually evolving into beings that are more like machines and less like humans. I've seen first hand how absolutely cruel, and mean and callous people can be with each other online and they are doing it with people they've never met, don't know, will probably never meet, or never know. This is absolutely mind boggling. What if I were a future employer? What if I were a hired gun? Why do they take this poor simulation so seriously?
I was simultaneously fascinated and amused. Right before my eyes, people were evolving into a less intelligent creature because they have left the intelligence requirement up to the flawed technology they have become so comfortable with. But then, I also know that the vast majority of these users were young: mostly women in their early to mid 20s. They are just as naive as young people their age 20 years ago. They still have a lot of heartbreak to meet, a lot of experiences ahead, and a lot more to learn—especially about who people really are.
The only thing that gives me a bit of hope, is that each successive generation of humanity has evolved with the technologies of their age, much to the chagrin of the previous generation. I should probably avoid being pre-judgmental here, since my parents had a similar opinion of my generation and computers—and that was before the advent of commercial internet access.
Everybody grows up eventually, I suppose. Right now however, we have an internet that is crawling with young adults who know more about the technology than the people using them. This reminds of the German scientists who developed weapons far more advanced than their peers across the Atlantic and went on a killing spree through Europe. Hmm... too much?
Maybe it's not that we are evolving backwards, but just becoming less human. I mean, if you think about the singularity theory, where we eventually become one with our technology, this development is probably right in line with what what appears to be the next logical step in human evolution. Maybe I just need to embrace it and roll with this new digital flat world that online social media has created... nah, scratch that. If anything, this proves that the Bible was wrong about something: shall the meek inherit the earth? False. Fools shall inherit the earth.
...and trust me, they are everywhere.
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