Today is the heyday of social media. Information has never been faster, or more furious. Never has there been a time before when we could receive instant answers and gratification from our “friends” that live hundreds and thousands of miles away. Never before have we been able to simply “unfriend” a person whose opinions we don’t like.
In the past, we had to socialize and learn to get along in person. We kept ourselves to more secluded friend groups that we saw in person every so often. And that’s the important thing—we saw these individuals in person. We recognized them as fellow humans and while we may not have agreed with their opinions, we were at least forced to be polite. And if we weren’t polite or they weren’t polite, it was between us and them instead of the entire world.
These days, there’s no escaping that world. We wind up complaining about our co-workers and fake friends on social media with filters that reach out to hundreds of others in our social circles. Those individuals aren’t real to us. They aren’t our “real” friends. When something happens that we don’t like, we take to Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites, expecting our hundreds, thousands, of “real friends” on Facebook to say “there, there, it’s okay” and to like, love, react to the posts that we put up.
This has filtered into our real lives. We expect to have instant gratification with answers to our questions. We expect immediacy. The world has sped up, and our needs and wants have sped up with it.
And while the world has sped up, we have sheltered ourselves in our own bubbles. We simply block those we don’t like. We shut out what’s happening in the rest of the world, telling ourselves that we’re too delicate or too nervous or too anxious to learn about the bombings occurring overseas or the starving children in Yemen.
We forget what it feels like to have our opinions challenged.
What happens when we forget what that’s like? We wind up with a president who spouts his opinions on social media. If there’s backlash to anything he says—to anything we say—we all lash out and ardently defend ourselves and our opinions and beliefs. The other person is the villain and we are the hero.
And what does this mean for the world? What does it mean when we forget what it’s like to be respectful, to communicate with others, to not scream our opinions into the ether? What does it mean when we instead decide to record every perceived slight and stew on it for days while others validate our opinions?
I don’t have an answer.