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The Safety Net

Alberto Smith muses on the shallowness of modern society

Never before has man been able to communicate with such ease but truly connect with such difficulty. The ascendance of social media has signaled the demise of empathy and with it perhaps humanity as we know it. Just as the telephone signaled the end of distance as a limiting factor of communication, social media has signaled the end of reality. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow us to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances wherever we go, yet there is a cost to this social revolution.

Their invasive webs become a new dimension of interaction, corrupting the minds and lifestyle of all who succumb to their burdensome worship. However, I should stress, this is not the theme of an Orwellian novel and Mark Zuckerberg is no ‘Big Brother’; instead this is the plot of a Shakespearian tragedy and we, humanity, are the doomed protagonist. After all, in our quest for popularity whether posting a tweet in the hope of gaining numerous favourites or seeking to maximise Tinder matches, we are all draining the lifeblood of reality from society and therefore ourselves. We can all too easily seem supportive, enthusiastic or even suggestive at the click of a button but how often does this show of support materialise into physical action? The safety net of a great number of friends on Facebook creates the façade of companionship and yet many people feel so alone. This ‘click society’ has led to an unprecedented simplification of human interaction and in turn, a popularity contest of which there is no winner.

We are so far removed from the effects of our actions that our sense of morality is irreversibly flawed, treating our fellow citizens as products which can be rated and discarded at will. As we are continuously subjected to brutal images and articles depicting the lives of others we have developed a sense of false consciousness of their problems. Yet with this persistent exposure to the atrocities of the world instead of becoming more compassionate, we are in fact more removed and further numbed to the brutality of life with every viewing. This ‘Hyper-Normalisation’ of rudimentary content has forever changed our capacity for empathy, though we may not have felt the raw emotion of suffering ourselves, we feel a growing disdain and disinterest for the problems of others, due to our surface level exposure of the worlds issues at the touch of a mouse. Though the Internet age should have hailed a world of camaraderie, it has created a world of lonely individuals, united only in their conformity to the systematic marketisation of emotion. However, the extensive use of filters is perhaps societies greatest misfortune. The widespread use of filters to improve images has radically changed societies perception of beauty, presenting us with standards that can never be realised.

This false aestheticism has set society up for an almighty fall; the impossibility of replicating this perceived perfection creates inflated expectations and aspirations that no-one can live up to because put simply those standards do not exist. Social media is increasingly an echo chamber of positivity; rarely are negative experiences shared. This creates a sense that others are living perfect lives, something which is simply not true. This further enshrines a false hierarchy of aestheticism, popularity and societal value. Societies greatest sickness has forever been its failure to empathise and without substantial change perpetual depression is inevitable.

Image: Sean McEntee/flickr

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