I like social media. It’s a useful way of communicating with friends and people sharing my hobbies, scuba diving and photography. It’s kind of an intermediate method between speaking to someone face-to-face and sticking a poster on a public wall. I can announce a new article I wrote or a set of new photographs I took, without bothering anyone who doesn’t want to hear about such things right now. At the same time, it’s possible to comment on and to have a conversation about what I posted, which is hardly an option with a wall poster.
I started using Myspace in 2005, and Facebook a few years later. It’s interesting to observe how the styles of communication changed. People definitely have learned what’s appropriate for social media, and what is too personal and private.
Also, a new kind of spam has developed. There is a cottage industry of making images containing more or less inspirational or funny quotes, written above pictures of sunsets, starry skies or big-eyed animals. Other images ask the social media user to set them as his/her profile picture via some emotional message, supposedly to support the victims of a disease or other hardship. What exactly does such “support” gain the actual victims of these misfortunes? Rather little I would say.It’s not nearly a personally enough message to make someone feel better, and it does not provide one extra $ for the cure or research of any disease. Such an image asking to be set as a profile picture is a chain letter, or a computer virus contingent for its spread upon the help of the people who post it. What do these messages do for the folks who make them? I think the vanity of seeing your image “going viral” on social media contributes, and on the internets clicks can often translate into $s.
Why are these images-for-sharing so popular? Again, they certainly pander to people’s vanity, wanting to sound clever or involved. But to me, posting such ready-made pieces of wisdom is rather shallow: it’s not you who came up with the quote, or even found it in a book. Clicking on “share” when somewhat agreeing with a text on a jpg is the weakest of all creative acts.
Like every new method of communication, such as Morse code or the telephone before it, social media necessitate a certain new intelligence in using them. Plastering that communication channel full of meaningless pseudo-inspirational quotes is not the right way. Do you think when people first got phones that they called each other to read some quotations with faux-wisdom to the person on the other end of the line? Probably not.