I see many benefits in the social media. It is a place where I can easily get in touch with people, and make things in real life happen. Still, I have some serious and growing worries when it comes to their capability for enhancing or building sustainable collectives.
When I am on Facebook, the world that I meet is a highly constricted one. And it is certainly different from the one you experience. This gradually aggravating digital autism is a consequence of my own – conscious and unconscious – choices. And of mechanisms, that are working behind the scenes, on which I have absolutely no influence. The algorithms of the social media have an enormous power deciding which information reaches each one of us, and it is fair to say that they are the most important cultural battleground of our time
I am often engaged in interesting dialogues with interesting people on Facebook, much more so than on any other online platform. Unfortunately, I rapidly loose contact with these temporary collectives, and the discussion will die out. Maybe it will start again some other time, but from scratch.
Social media forces us to constantly embrace the new while forgetting about the old, lost in a river of collective digital amnesia. It fosters a logic that matches the way of thinking that has brought us in a situation where we have to look for a growing number of planets to sustain our way of living.
Let’s face it: Facebook is about accumulating cash. This is not less true since the company went public. The push towards commercialization enhances the linearity and the fetishism for the new of Facebook’s surface design and hidden algorithms.
Do you remember in the good old days, when we were told that we were part of a multi-media revolution? What has happened since then? It is true that we are now sharing photos and videos like crazy at the social media. And that these formats are creating more engagement from followers. Still, when it comes to interaction as such, we are almost exclusively using text. It is still definitely much faster and more efficient to comment on an update via text than via audio and/or video.
Also read this: Is audio the next big social media trend?
When reducing our interactions to text alone, what do we miss out? Can smiley faces and other textual tricks substitute for the nuances that are being conveyed through speech? And by this, the whole range of elements of human interaction that serve to build empathy, trust and understanding. Again, the digital deafness of the social media is a consequence of choices that are out of our hands
Also read this: What’s keeping audio from going viral?
Supposing that our collectives are feeding on the access to, and the capacity for understanding the other’s world. Supposing that we need ways of storing our collectively build knowledge and reflections in intuitive and easily retrievable ways. Supposing that we need to engage in dialogue in a way that stimulates trust and empathy. Our social media do not look to good, do they?
There are examples of places on the Internet where parts of these requirements are met. In wikis, we are able to store collectively build knowledge. Check. There are probably thousands of forums where people interacting around more or less obscure shared interests. In a sustainable way. Check. The fact is that most of the time most people spend online is on the social media. And the majority of the social media platforms are failing to provide us with the tools to build and sustain our collectives.
Is this a technological problem? Or a cultural one? So you are still thinking about technology as if it was something external to us? Guess what! Our so-called technological revolution is driven by cultural forces. And cultural forces, that’s you and I!
Also read this: “Does social media really empower local communities?”