This weekend I made a point on Facebook that was self-consciously unimportant. It had something to do with the fact that my local Subway now carries garlic bread. I then made the joke that I was aware that it wasn’t the most interesting point I’ve made on the Internet but I thought was worth mentioning. (Note to self: when getting the garlic bread, skip the onions next time.) A few people clicked “like” without saying why. That’s fine. The one person who did respond said something that I found distressing. She said that Facebook is full of uninteresting points, that that’s what people like.
That’s exactly why I stopped paying attention to Twitter. I thought I could use it to promote the blog more but it’s only reaching a few of the same people who I’m connected with on Facebook. I also thought that I would use it to follow what some of my favorite celebrities and thinkers have to say alongside one or two news feeds. I found that I got bored trying to sift through all of the crap and lost interest. As a result, if anybody did have something poignant to say I missed it. I resorted to following those people in the ways that I used to before: blogs, RSS feeds, and believe it or not, books.
Is the fact that we’re subjected to so much uninteresting information via software that’s specifically designed for it affecting the way we think? I would hate to definitely say yes, especially without conducting a scientific experiment to research the subject, but I’m inclined to think so. I’m thinking back to when I was a media studies major. We were beat over the head with Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.” Not only is the message affected by the way that the information is coming across, but using the knowledge of how it’s going to come across affects the way that we think about it in the first place. Because we’re submitting uninteresting points all of the time we’re forcing ourselves to think uninteresting. Social media are causing us to become mentally lethargic.
Does this make us easier to control? That’s hard to say for sure. There’s a difference between the abovementioned mental lethargy and inherent qualities in a person that makes them submissive to authority. As such I’m not too afraid of the government to use social media to not only spy on us but also control us by taking advantage of people’s weakened psychological state. There’s more to getting somebody to do your bidding. But it’s a scary subject to ponder nonetheless. But even if we don’t worry about such a thing then there’s still the need in each of us to better ourselves. The Internet and the information age in general has much to offer us in terms of exercising our minds. We each need to be more diligent in terms of finding ways of expressing and challenging ourselves. That’s one reason I have this blog. It’s also a reason for you to read it. I don’t mean to sound egotistical, but think about it: don’t you feel more fulfilled by reading this far than you would if you stopped at my initial paragraph about Subway?
I think there’s one more example that also happened this weekend that’s both relevent and entertaining. One of my friends on Facebook shared this link to a site which parodies countries interacting each other between the first and second world wars. It reduces the conversation to one that could take place on Facebook. I responded to my friend’s sharing of the link by saying that I couldn’t make it all the way through. It was amusing but it’s so close to asinine conversations on Facebook that I couldn’t take it. He responded by saying that’s the point. I urge you to check it out but be warned: it may bring up bad memories–not of the world wars, but of flame wars.