On my few days unplugging, I noticed something strange happening. The sun was shining, the atmosphere was upbeat due to most of us having 4 days off work, yet as I looked around the campsite it was filled with people sat feet apart but looking glumly into their phone screen.
There was social interaction going on, but much of it was circling the phone screen. Sharing funny things they have found, or talking about doing a particular thing they had seen online. The internet is the social hub that controls almost all the interaction here.
Each person was more than able to gain the feedback and entertainment they needed, in person. Yet almost all appeared focused elsewhere entirely. As Richard Seymour outlined in the Twittering machine perfectly, all the of the people around me were using their smartphone to take them away without leaving. “It is as though we are both lonely and threatened by intimacy”.
Indeed, this book – with all its nihilistic approach to social media – outlines a lot of what I observed, but did not make this site less of an eye-opener. “The Twittering Machine promises to give us access to everything, limitlessly, allowing us to transcend the limitations of mere flesh”. Of course, this behaviour is defended by those that have swallowed the marketing.
The truth is, we have been sold this idea that by being always connected and entertained, we are being more social. Facebook promises to “bring people closer together” yet our society couldn’t be more apart than any time in human history. The tale that social media connects us together is a lie, and instead we are left with people that value connectivity over the internet more than with the people around them.
Scoring internet points and sharing memes is not social. Talking, interacting and engaging is. These things can happen over the internet, I have some great group chats and social media interactions that provide this, but none of this is facilitated by the companies. What they really want is for users to feed it so full of data that it can sell you things. Becoming so big that people feel at a detriment for not being part of the fake conversation.
Those that do not want to adopt these modern tropes feel obliged to explain themselves to others. Feeling judged and looked down on because they do not conform. Made a social outcast by the very people they are trying to interact with on a personal level. It seems apt that many conspiracy theorists refer to those that believe the prevailing narrative as sheep, when the reverse is true to those that will not swallow the social media lie.
There is no social in social media if it takes us away from the world around us. If we sit in huddles with others and stare at our phones, in any of this.