The 21st century in western society has been marked by the rise of the Internet generation (Net Gen), fueled by social media outlets. It has been my experience that political, legal and moral decisions, we have to make as a society, are now the least of our priorities. This comes as a surprise of course since the age of the Internet gave us a medium to communicate around the world and exchange information more freely than ever before. The Internet gave us free access to a lot of information and a platform for the rise of social networks but what is it exactly that we are doing with these networks? And how beneficial are they to our society as a whole?
It is important to understand what kind of an effect we have generated from social media networks in the 21st century. I want to point to this in the social progression that was brought during the Enlightenment Era. In short, it was during this time that we had some of the most profound social concepts brought to light by scholars such as Newton, whose ideas are profound and prevalent even today. During the Enlightenment era we came across scholars who were able to translate and create dialogue and discussion to build even further on knowledge amongst society.
Today however, it seems we are moving away from having any kind of in-depth discussion about the current state of our society. We still rely heavily on news outlets and even go on to cite them in discussion, when most of us are aware that in 9/11 all major news outlets paved the way for war and manufactured the consent for countless deaths. The news is even presented to us by the so-called “reputable anchors” such as Brian Williams. So why do we do it? Why do we accept a tweet with less than a 140 characters as our daily dose of knowledge, when in fact it should be the start of our own research?
Many people would agree that the enlightenment era was the time in which we made the most amount of social progression and generated ideas that were beyond the social constructions at the time. This was done in order to better our understanding of self, identity, individualism, society and ultimately the meaning of life. For example, thinkers in the last wave of the Enlightenment such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson even began to use a more positivist point of view on issues concerning self-organization and evolutionary forces. Much of the knowledge that was shared amongst people during this time was thanks to the printing press, which was an important point in the history of our social networks and played a key role in developing the knowledge community.
The printing press is evidence of a great and positive social network platform as it allowed people to share information with one another and try to grasp new ways of thinking. This platform was more or less designed for the sole purpose of knowledge formation and sharing. The question then becomes whether our current social networks such as: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter could have the same effect and purpose.
Since 2004, when Facebook emerged, the Internet generation took this social platform to its heights. Today, Facebook has 890 million daily active users around the world (Facebook INC., 2014). Within this social media, people are able to create their own profile, write about themselves and categorize their interests into its pre-constructed framework. It is here that many people begin to self-construct an ‘identity’ by selectively designing how they want to be perceived to the world.
One could then suggest the; online social media, has become a place where many individuals in the west create an identity for themselves . This online identity allows an individual to create their own definition of self and the identity they want depicted to others. This however, doesn’t allow for much self-actualization but rather an ‘up-keeping’ of what you want to be perceived as amongst your peers.
I believe social media has become a distraction in our society and prevents people from reflecting on their own identity. Furthermore it is a distraction from self-actualization and does not allow much thinking into greater political and social conflicts that are happening in the world. We are more concerned with pop-culture phenomena then we are with political issues, which speaks volumes about the state of which our individual priorities lie in western society. No longer are we using this means of communication as the printing press was used in the enlightenment era and the hope that the masses would join in the intellectual community is decreasing as the masses are constantly distracted.
Hope does exist however, in platforms such as WordPress where writing is welcome and discussions are happening everywhere! I have enjoyed getting to know my fellow bloggers who have surprised me with their in-depth discussions and posts on various subject matter. I often forget to upkeep my Facebook account and spend little time on Twitter and Instagram but WordPress has become one of my go-to places for in-depth writing by real people. I follow bloggers who cover everything from ‘Fashion’ to ‘Politics’ and I see just how much work and effort they put into their postings which serves as a great inspiration for me to write more and gain more in-depth knowledge.
Let me know what your thoughts are on this~