There’s a video going around Facebook today called The Innovation of Loneliness, and it makes me want to talk about it.
Well, if you’ve watched the video this might seem ironic to blog about it. Well, that’s because I’m a weird blogger. It took me a while to figure out what this blog is for due to the many social network tools we now have available to us, and I decided that this is for my thoughts: if I want to respond to some common misconception (in science, politics, and sometimes policy and law) and I feel like yelling at someone about how stupid and wrong their opinion is (which my friend Michael sometimes does, but with more charts and tables), and sometimes because I have a thought I want to write down.
This one is a thought. I’m putting some words down, and if my (I’m pretty sure it’s largely imagined) audience wants to read them they are free to. Or not to. I don’t really care, I’m not in it for the (again, largely imaginary) fans. If what I say affects someone then it seems like there was a reason for me writing. And it nobody reads this? Then it was just thoughts I was putting down. Think of this as my poor attempt at journaling (something which I may or may not be about to get good at). In public. Because it addresses a public topic, a public video.
And if there is someone reading this, then they have already read what makes up some of my response to the video.
Now here’s the rest. I agree that you let social media, like Facebook, run your lives (~1:40). If you are feeling pressured to post something or feel guilty for not posting, then that’s unhealthy. So is letting Facebook run your social life (~1:55).
Collecting friends (almost like Pokemon?) is also a no-no. The idea is not to have the most friends.
I think the author of the video has it wrong when he criticized “picture sharing and chatting” as mere connection. There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, and sharing a specific picture with a friend can have a big meaning. Or does he mean our Facebook photo album? Is there really a substantial difference between a digital photo album, and a physical one that you pull out to show people when they come to your house? We’ve taken the awkward “Hey, want to see my vacation photos!” non-question that gets you labelled a jerk for declining, and instead said “I’ve put my photos up, if you want to see them they’re there, and if you want to talk about photos we can also do that”.
The chatting is the next issue that the author really has a rant about (2:10~2:50). Here I think the author has confused or conflated two unrelated topics: presenting a persona, and exercising discretion. This is made clear is the image presented at ~2:27, where a woman throws a drink (presumably at a guy) because he said something stupid. That’s not an example of “being you” or “putting yourself forward”, that’s just being a jerk. Choosing your words carefully, ironically enough, actually shows a certain maturity with language, and discretion is something that people, sadly, often lack at some level.
As for the underlying issue, people open up more to others when they feel comfortable in doing so. Nobody needs to walk around as an open book to the whole world, that’s just silly. So this criticism, overall, is a point not well taken (maybe more of an author tract).
So, onto his “3 points” (~3:10): 1. Put out attention wherever we want it to be, 2. We will always be heard, and 3. We never have to be alone.
I don’t understand the 1st point, because we’ve always done that. Is it about people focusing on what they want and ignoring what they dislike? Or about the internet’s ability to connect people with interests in obscure topics that wouldn’t happen otherwise? Sometimes I focus on one thing and ignore others, because that’s the only way you can live. To do one thing is to choose (actively or not) to not doing anything else. This first point doesn’t seem to say anything.
The second point seems to only affect people who actually think that “internet=instant audience”. I’ve made several points that I don’t know if someone reads this, and it doesn’t really matter to me. The thing about having philosophy training is that when you hear a propositional video like this it makes you want to respond, and writing helps me do that.
The third point is one that I really can’t relate to. Yes, Facebook allows you to keep up on what’s going on in friends lives, but it’s not a replacement for them, no more then the telephone was 10 years ago. If you think that social networks will avail loneliness, then you have been misled. But this goes to something deeper, which is a fear of being alone altogether. I’ve been with people like that, who seem like they feel like they’re going to disappear unless they’re talking to you at every second. I’m not one for small talk, nor am I very good at it. I’m fine with not talking (but I know that would send some people right over the deep end).
That’s ultimately not a social network issue; it’s a insecurity one. It’s something that social networks can aggravate, but it’s not a sole cause. It’s something a person should work on regardless of social media use.
I find “I share therefore I am” (~3:30) an interesting twist on Descartes, but this video is pretty late to the party, because Existentialism was a thing that happened quite a long time ago know. Gabriel Marcel talked about the need for communion with others and self-giving over 60 years ago in The Philosophy of Existentialism. Again, the problem is not sharing with others, but indiscriminate sharing, a focus (again) on quantity over quality. This is again, not a social media problem, but an insecurity problem (the need to have approval from others in order to have a self-worth).
So overall, there are some interesting points, but it needed the work of a (better?) editor to get some ideas across better and in a clearer way. Does it pose some cautions on the mis-use of social media? Yes. Should you go and immediately delete your Facebook account because “social media is teh evilz”? No, of course not. Social media, like Facebook, like Twitter, and like blogging are above all tools to be used, and like any tool there is a right way and a wrong way, which may take some practice (experience) and practical advice (inculcation).
Oh, and don’t let anonymous Youtube videos and internet bloggers decide how you should run your life. That’s just irresponsible.