Social media was supposed to save us. The power of the people, the intelligence of the crowds and real-time connectivity was the answer to our prayers. For years we had been kept in the dark or outright lied to about what was happening in the world. We believed in our leaders and trusted big companies in power to do what was not only right for them, but right for the people.
We were betrayed. We were betrayed because of greed, because of impatience and we were betrayed because we are naive. We believed that those in power were somehow smarter and better than us and that they tell us what to do. Sure, we had our skeptical moments about 9/11 and our second thoughts about Afghanistan and Iraq, but for the most part we lined up behind our leaders because that was the American way. Patriotism, like any rule to be followed, would be rewarded.
Instead we believed ourselves right into the worst recession since the 1930s. Regardless of what you did, what you believed it or how hard you worked, you were punished for following the rules set out to us so many years before. Many were cast out with no manual on what to do next.
But social media was there. The answer to all of our prayers, the new leaders Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams and whomever started LinkedIn were there to show us that together we were powerful, together we could commiserate and together we could share our personal lives so that a new leadership could rise from the soon-to-be ashes of the old one. No, social media didnâ€™t help us overthrow a government, but like any good pain reliever, it made us feel a helluva lot better. Now we could connect to those outside our social circle and educate ourselves beyond what Wikipedia had to offer. We could debate in real time, we could watch TV shows together and we could make memories together. We became one big, happy family.
Boy did that feel good. Hundreds and thousands of us desperately turned to our smartphones and laptops aching to be reached out to. Aching to be revered in a way that only kin can, an unconditional acceptance for who we are regardless of our faults. God damn that was nice. While the holding hands and singing Kumbaya never quite materialized, we did the digital equivalent.
And now, fuck that. Most of us really donâ€™t like each other all that much, and those that pretend they do are either lying or desperate. Social media has turned from a connective tissue into a monitoring service. We friend people we donâ€™t know and follow those we just want to check up on. The concept of privacy has been destroyed and replaced with the exact opposite. Weâ€™ve trained ourselves to be public by default, private by accident.
And now we hate it. Not openly, but more subtly. We hold back for fear or being judged, censor ourselves in hopes we wonâ€™t piss anyone off. Weâ€™ve stepped away from the connectedness and accepted all the negative consequences while embracing few of the positive ones.
We did it to ourselves. We know exactly how to get out of it, weâ€™re just too scared because weâ€™re too comfortable.