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My Issues With Social Media - 1

I find it hard to imagine a time where you could've read every book ever written.

We are limited in our interactions with the world (there's too much out there) so our understanding of it comes to depend on what others have deemed interesting and necessary, and this is often what we would easily consider ridiculous. I've seen newspapers with half a column on a homicide in the margins of a full page advertisement about a new phone.

Our limited time makes it so that we are playing hard to get while enjoying the flattery of a world fighting for our attention; and in doing so making things bigger, brighter, louder, more engaging for us - but necessarily short, aware of our promiscuous attention spans.

Proust noted 'The more an account is compressed, the more it seems that it deserves no more space than it has been allocated' - so while we normalise homicide as a daily occurrence, when someone decides to expand on something (global warming and veganism coming to mind here) in an otherwise pithy world, we may be lead to believe that they are more important than we would otherwise.

Today we are at the necessary mercy of abridgement, which Proust considered as "human experience is vulnerable to abbreviation, it can easily be stripped of more obvious signposts by which we guide ourselves when ascribing importance."

So why did I single out social media? While in the past you would have to pay for all information you wanted to receive: museums, music, books, newspapers, television channels - they were under some obligation to remain closer to the truth and provide you with objective value, otherwise, you would just stop giving them your money.

Social media on the other hand, is free, and therefore, under no such constraint. It seems weird and wonderful that we live in a world where obtaining endless knowledge (from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram for example) requires no money from us. However, we are paying with things far more valuable: our attention, our time and therefore also our life design and happiness, remaining under the illusion that we are somehow getting everything for free, while being leveraged and sold off to the highest bidder.

"We might caricature the history of art as a succession of geniuses engaged in pointing out different elements worthy of our attention" is a description that takes another dimension today. It is information and products that are being spread and the geniuses? - anyone with an internet connection.

Anyone can have a social media account, without any ethical or moral training (if there even could be such a thing) but without having to formally stop and think about the effect of their 'influencing' beyond how it benefits them.

So many people have the power to divert our attention, and this is done mostly based on what will make them money, not what will provide us with value - putting the consumer in a dangerous position: their view of the world and therefore their happiness is now at the mercy of the 'hottest trend' and usually, purchase.

We are then lead to make choices that are heavily based on a misguided sense of importance and value born out of whatever tiny expansions break through our personal overly-compressed world, and which are likely the product of carefully designed and calculated attention-seeking, rather than objective utility.

If you've actually been parted with your money due to something you've seen on social media (attention is harder to quantify), have you gained the promised levels of satisfaction? Do luxury getaways and travel really justify their cost to you personally? Have serums and creams brought you closer to the filtered model skin? Are you being truly rational in your choices, or are you justifying them after they have infiltrated and warped your perspective? Would you make them again?

“One sees people who are doubtful whether the sight of the sea and the sound of its waves are really enjoyable, but who become convinced that they are—and also convinced of the rare quality of their wholly detached tastes—when they have agreed to pay a hundred francs a day for a room in a hotel which will enable them to enjoy this sight and sound.”

In the end of the day, I am a child of the modern world, I love and enjoy the freedom of expression and connectivity of these platforms, despite the issues I have with them. I do think there are ways to do social media right, and ways do let it do you wrong. Every influencer can do what is in their power for attention, and that is their right and problem.

What is my problem, is how I personally react to it. Firstly, I see half of the solution to anything as just being aware of it. We can be a bit more weary of promoted 'important' issues which we have no power to change (especially those that can bring guilt and sadness) to us by putting them in the bigger picture (expanding other compressed problems) and then moving on with our lives.

A good rule of thumb with what to spend our money on is Naval Ravikant's comment on not trusting intellectual interest, but rather intellectual disinterest. (although intellectual might be a bit of a stretch here), when making a choice, it is better to do it based on the opinion of those who have little associations or benefits from promoting something (which sounds lovely, but is also quite difficult to find).



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