A few weeks ago, a friend pointed me to this Chronicle of Higher Education post. The article itself is certainly worth a read, but what really got my attention were the comments. Amid the snarkiness you’ll find in a lot of comment threads, there was an underlying debate about the value of social media as a whole. This comment from “transparentopaque” was just one example of the naysayers’ side of the argument:
I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account. So, I have nothing to worry about. I have yet to figure out what anybody could possibly have to say via Twitter that I absolutely need to read. Is anyone’s life really that interesting? Yes, but only those people who do not waste their time posting on social media networks. Life is happening, and many people today are wasting it away talking about it. Instead of living in the moment, people are analyzing every aspect of their life to determine its suitability as a Facebook status update.
I’ve determined that it isn’t really the “sharing” that drives people to social media, it is the sense that they have a captive audience. But that is only an illusion. Few people participate in order to read what others have to say; they participate in order to have a forum in which they can hear themselves speak. Narcissism has finally found its place in this world.
Now it would be easy to dismiss these comments as the rantings of someone in an ivory tower clinging to his last typewriter ribbon as the world passes him by. However, I think there’s a message that even the most ardent social media proponent should listen to. Just as it’s probably wrong for this person to throw the social media baby out with the narcissism bathwater, it’s wrong to believe that this person is all wet.
The fact is, there’s some truth in “transparentopaque’s” comments. And while it may not be easy to hear, it should serve as a lesson to all of us about what the resistance to social media really sounds like. We can rant and rave all we want about people who “don’t get it,” but we help feed the beast every time we obsess over our Klout scores or try to improve our standing on EmpireAvenue. Yes, some of the social media naysayers are full of shit. But so are some of the most vehement social media adherents.
The bottom line is that social media is merely an amplifier. Is it all narcissistic trash? No, but it amplifies our desire to talk about and hear about ourselves. The irony is that ”transparentopaque” used a social media channel to share his distaste for social media. And you can guarantee that when another poster, “ellenhunt,” followed up his comment with “Will you marry me?! ,” “transparentopaque” read it and smiled.
Social media doesn’t make people narcissistic. Human nature makes people narcissistic. Social media is just an amplifier.
That doesn’t make “transparentopaque’s” comments invalid, though. It just means we’ll all have to work a little harder–somewhat against our nature–to prove him wrong.