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Society’s newfound over-reliance on social media

social_media-wideIt was only twenty years ago that mobile phones were a futuristic gadget that you would occasionally spot out in the wild, and the internet was in its earliest stages. Fast forward to today, humanity has evolved to incorporate various types of technology into everyday life. But in the last decade, the explosion in social media has meant that people have now evolved to cater to social media – the smartphone, tablet and laptop is now little more than a portal to access pictures of your friend’s lunch or a Twitter rant on how much traffic there is on the M25.

Do we let social media dictate our lives?

Earlier this year, my home city of London was crowned the ‘selfie capital of the world‘ – but the selfie craze is a global phenomenon that has changed the way we capture memories. The very idea of selfies is self-centred – it’s you taking a picture of yourself, often in front of something memorable. But in actuality, selfies are just a symptom of the self-centred society that we live in today. Social media has created a fragmented society in which people have become polarised from each other – to acknowledge that you’re with somebody, all you have to do is tag them on Facebook or Twitter – or if you’re being adventurous, on Swarm (Foursquare); from there, you go onto people’s individual profile pages, and look through THEIR selfies. You look at the picture of THEIR lunch. Then you look at what event THEY have committed to attending next week. It’s all about THEM.

diana-taj-mahalPrincess Diana in 1992; would she have taken a selfie if time had been fast-forwarded twenty-two years?

The way I describe the use of social media as, is, defining the way people do things. It’s defining the way people dress. It’s defining the way people interact around each other. It’s defining what people do. This shouldn’t be the case – social media should supplement a day out by sharing a collection of photos that you took on a day out. It should be a short sentence at the end of the day shouting to the world that you had “a gr8 day out with my family/friends”.

SAFRICA-MANDELA-MEMORIALSocial media and the ‘selfie craze’ reaches all parts of society, apparently. 

People want others to know what they think – to an extent, everybody does. Heck, I write this blog because I like people to read what I think about the latest trends in technology. But social media takes vanity to a new level; Twitter is a great example. People mass-follow fellow users, in the hope of getting a few follow-backs. I see people who follow over 1,000 people, and have over 1,000 followers. These types of individuals are, with a few exceptions, attention-seeking people who think that they have had a successful day if they’ve reached a follower milestone. Generally speaking, these people can be identified as the people who have more than a thousand followers, and follow more people than follow them. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – you cannot read what those people are writing, because your Twitter timeline moves too quickly (I struggle to keep up with my Timeline, and I follow a modest amount of people at 401 as I’m writing this). And yet, these people convince themselves that all of their followers are reading what they write, and looking at their pictures, as if they are an exception because what they write is such valuable information. Well it’s not – and this false sense of popularity is a sad reality of the modern-day, social media-dictated society that we all find ourselves in.

Queen TweetsDon’t get me wrong, social media is fantastic in many ways and undoubtedly can and will have an important place in all of our lives for the foreseeable future. As a keen follower of UK politics, over the past few years I have witnessed an invaluable refreshment of the way politicians interact with people thanks to services like Facebook and Twitter. Social media is a forum where people can share ideas, debate with each other, share their favourite new song and interact with people from the other side of the world. 100 years ago – even half a century ago – people could not possibly have imagined how easy it was going to become to talk to people from different countries. But there is a line where social media can get too much of a grip on our lives, and society in general – and I fear that many people have crossed that line, and many others are treading awfully close.

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