Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Price of Going Viral

Image Courtesy of the Internet

A while ago, a friend of mine forwarded me a video of a man lying on the floor, foam seeping through his mouth, begging his wife (the one shooting the video), to save him as he was dying.

Fast forward, 2 months later, as I scrolled through my Facebook wall, I saw several other videos - a woman being beaten to a pulp by her husband, a husband exposing his wife for the whore she was, announcing to the world he was divorcing her.

You would think that's all fake news, wouldn't you? No. None of it was, and I can’t help but wonder about the kind of society we have become.

Granted, unfettered access to platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have opened doors for many, myself included. Social media:

§  Introduces us to people we would not otherwise meet in real life.

§  Reunites long lost friends while blessing us with new ones.

§  For burgeoning writers, social media broadens one’s horizon. Had I not embraced Twitter, for example, I would not have taken part in pitch contests for my yet to published manuscript or received the valuable feedback I need.

§  Social media has also become a place to unwind, air one’s views, share knowledge, experiences and gain inspiration and insight into the world at large.

§  As every honest, adept social media user will tell you, there is something soul-stirring about seeing the number of views for your video rise. Of seeing that ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘retweet’ and ‘comment’ notification pop on your screen. A chemical called dopamine is released into our body, and we can’t help but feel a surge of pleasure that comes with it.

§  Humans are gregarious creatures and with that comes the occasional craving of validation. We revel knowing that our selfies, motivational messages and videos are well-received and that we have secured our own little community. One that embraces our so-called brand.

§  What’s not to like about following someone’s journey to Timbuktu, watching videos of animals being rescued, men surprising their girlfriends with marriage proposals, a baptism perhaps?

§  I’ve seen people gain instant fame and success via social media. Sometimes all it takes is sharing a status, tagging someone, retweeting and a mention for the right person to discover raw talent.

Beautiful things happen when human beings embrace their uniqueness, authenticity and creativity, offering something no one else can to the world. Isn’t that what we all desire? To bless the world with our gifts and talents, and to show what we bring to the table. Social media has made this dream even more accessible to most of us.

But, during my years of scrolling through my timeline, I’ve noticed an eerie trend. A much dark side of social media that causes us to sacrifice our rationality, humanity and dignity for instant gratification. One must be heard and be seen now.

          “I have a three-strike rule. If I post 3 times and you don’t like, I’m unfollowing you,” one Twitter user wrote.

          “To all my haters who only read but never like or share, f**k you,” another ranted.

One Facebook user, after going live and getting 12 views, deleted their video and suspended their account. They were done!

The problem with dopamine is that it is addictive, which means we must continuously seek the same level of attention to remain satisfied and sane. It is no longer about seeking our hearts and doing what’ right. It’s about how big a tribe can I pull by doing this? 

Unfortunately, for some of us, that means resorting to deprave means to gain popularity and the following are some of the pitfalls:

§  Our hearts have become somewhat hardened, and we become immune to human suffering. For example, what would be one’s motive for standing in a crowd, hiding behind a camera, acting aloof while recording a painful incident instead of coming to the rescue?

§  We all want our fifteen minutes of fame. To be the one that saves the day by providing evidence or highlighting a situation, but at what cost? Why is it no longer enough to do a good deed in secret and still be satisfied?

§  The so-called ghost accounts have made it possible for people to settle scores via social media. Information shared in confidence is shared needlessly, giving little regard for the consequences. We no longer know how to confront issues in person and resolve conflicts behind closed doors. Instead, we seek justice by airing our dirty laundry in public. When we've all logged out of our devices, no one spares a thought for the ruined lives. a

§  Thanks to smartphones, we have mastered the art of doctoring images to name and shame or out of revenge. Even if one eventually proves their innocence, isn't the damage already done? This little regard for human dignity has been the cause of many a suicide. 

  §  Need I remind you of the terrorists who showcase their work on social media?

I once read an article that claims inhumanity has always been ingrained in us, and that social media has just brought things to light. That may be true, but now that we are aware of the consequences, isn’t it time that we work towards curbing the problem and going back to the basics?

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