It’s interesting how things can alter our ways of life. A decade ago, no one knew what a smartphone was, let alone imagine using a phone like a laptop, but now we are. The advent of the light bulb made life after the sun went down possible. Another thing that made life possible was air conditioning. In the American South, it was an unbearable place to live until AC made it tolerable for people to live and want to live in the South. Now we can order a pizza or clothing from a desktop or a phone. Twenty years ago, Amazon was just starting and no one predicted it would sell more things than just books. We didn’t imagine we could do our whole shopping without having to go to the local mall, but shopping changed because of Amazon.
Social media has changed things in our world as well. One of the things it has changed is the demise of the weblog or blog. Until a few years ago, blogs were a way for people to get ideas out to the wider world. People were able to share their views in a way that took time. It took time to write those posts and it took time to read them. A number of my friends blogged and if you were to go back to the mid-aughts, you would see a rather prolific blogger opine on religion and politics. I loved blogging, but over the last few years, I’ve blogged less and less. There are many reasons for this, but I think I, like so many other former bloggers, gave up blogging with the rise of social media. With Facebook and Twitter, you no longer had to write a long post on an issue; instead, you can point at an article and write a short and sweet post that includes the word “this.” We link to an article, but we don’t expound any further. We’ve practiced how to be snarky instead of how to better reason a specific issue.
But social media and blogging are two different things, using two different parts of the brain. Blogging tends to be more thoughtful. Yes, it can be emotional and overwrought, but it is a space where reason and intellect can be put to use to explain an issue.
Social media, on the other hand, is totally a reptilian brain kind of thing. Twitter and Facebook are places where we emote, where we express ourselves. We aren’t thinking as much on social media as we are feeling. One only need to see how our current President uses Twitter- it’s not based on thoughtful sentences, but on pure emotion.
It’s not that you can’t be reasonable on social media, you can. But I think more than on blogs, the temptation is to respond with emotion and not with reason.
The other thing is how social media seems to focus more on showing off. It is not a place to be vulnerable, but a place to show off. People don’t share when they feel depressed or how hard it was to get out of bed this morning, but they will talk about how mad they are at this politician. A number of the blogs I followed over the years shared vulnerability, they showed their real selves. Social media lends itself to virtue signaling, but not to be honest with others.
Social media tends to be again more about reassuring your friends that you share their same views instead of trying to change minds. MAD Magazine has a not-funny comic about children and gun violence that is making the rounds. Those who are favorable to gun control see it as emotionally gut-wrenching. But will it persuade those who are skeptical or against gun control? No. The whole point is not to change minds, but to reassure like-minded folk that their cause is just and those who don’t share those views are just wrong if not out and out evil.
I’m going to try to blog more over the coming months, but what I really wish is that folks that used to blog start up again. I’d love to be able to take in people’s viewpoints instead of seeing the latest screed on Twitter about what have you. Social media has changed us as a public, but just because it can change us doesn’t mean we can’t reverse it.