In the last few years, I’ve watched people I know take on new personas online and spout off with positions on topics on social media and speak in tones and absolutes that would trouble me if I heard them talk that same way in person. I’ve seen how calloused and stubborn we have become in positions on everything from politics to medicine to foreign policy to religion and everything else in between. And in most of these areas, the people I’m referring to are not professionals in those spaces but speak with the authority and audacity (pride?) of someone who is. It is baffling. Why do we feel so compelled to sound right all of the time (and everyone else wrong)?
I don’t know about you, the reader, but I grow more concerned and fearful every day that our culture is falling deeper into this trap of wanting more “wow factor” out of just about everything we experience. And of course, these experiences cannot come from a longer drawn out process. No, they must be instant, emotionally touching (but only positive), and promise to change how you view the world. This has become a noteworthy characteristic of places like Upworthy and similar viral content focused sites. Social media sharing has primarily become about the feel good moment.
However, leave it to news outlets to pick up the slack on the other end of the spectrum. We all know by now how the news (perhaps a misused term these days) use outlandish titles and exaggerated terminology to describe just about everything to keep us hooked in. This is nothing new and has been a tactic used for decades.
Social media, and us as creators of most of that media, have fallen right into the same patterns that has made us hate the news and write that way in status updates. We even do it in our day to day conversation. Our stories must be dramatic, “epic”, “amazeballs”, or whatever other terms are in now. (I’m clearly showing some age now.) It hasn’t helped that we’ve been telling our kids and each other we’re all “different and unique” in our own special ways. So now we all think we have some great story to tell – and really some of us do. I have wondered before how the Internet and social media channels have increased our narcissism or simply given us an outlet for what was always there. And thanks to Facebook, we all have a mini montage of our lives with a emotion-inducing soundtrack to watch and share in case you weren’t there the first when you posted all of it.
I’m waiting to see the day when this one-upping of everything bubble will burst like the early 2000’s tech bubble or the mid 2000’s housing bubble. This can’t go on for much longer without it imploding. In ways, I look forward to seeing where we can do next. Perhaps it’ll be a world where solid content speaks for itself and we can analyze and identify it for what it truly is instead of being told it’s the best thing we’ve ever read. No seriously – THE BEST.