I think it would be very difficult to argue that we are living in an extremely invasive and polarizing time in history. Knowing your beliefs and business, who your kids are, how successful you are, or how your mental health is completely collapsing – we are pressed to share it all. And while we are not forced into creating a Facebook account or checking it multiple times per hour, the invisible hand behind our addictions to know what is happening in our bubbles lie within our own genetic programming.
Somewhere between our amygdala and cerebral cortex a light push towards our phones begin, where we are seemingly forced to gaze into the nebulous abyss of existence from every angle. In an instant our emotions move from ‘aww so cute’ to ‘fuck that guy!’ And while none of this is new reporting, I’d like to switch from the tone of big brother’s dystopian mental hellhole into an exploration of the possible benefits of getting through our information age infancy and why we are here in the first place.
Why do we want to share? What does it mean to us that our inner worlds must be expressed, and how do we decide what feelings, thoughts, and experiences go out and which ones stay in? Coming from the Midwest, we are taught to keep most everything in. The only thing that should come out of human beings are “happy thoughts.” And while there is some merit to remaining positive and trying to affect the world through joy, there is significant if not equal merit to looking into the shadows and asking, “What the hell is going on here? Cut it out!”
Of course, we communicate to spread knowledge of self and the world, but how do we decide on the importance of our knowledge and who needs to hear it? And better yet, when we are trying to create, coalesce, or attack a group that stands by certain ideals and behaviors, how do we determine the efficacy of our voice in the din of the world wide web. We certainly feel a large psychic push to share who we are.
I’m asking all these questions because I know that I have been clumsy in the past about sharing and certainly I think the newness of the impulse to form opinions, share them, and sit and wait like thirsty dogs for the comments to come pouring in or worse yet, the emptiness to arise within when your effect on the world seems to be non-existent, it is a clumsy rite of passage for us all. It’s going to be challenging and while most of my time on social-media has been 90% voyeurism – my own private Stanford Prison Experiment happening in real time – no matter how much my study has afforded me insight or confirmation that my ideas are spot on, none of these expressions seem to leave me feeling very self-satisfied, and yet the compulsions are still there.
The collective involvement I think is the point. For far too long we have been able to ignore the darkness of our personal involvement in the world and how that teeny tiny pebble you are makes a difference in the overflowing bucket. We vote with our dollar, but more accurately, we vote with our attention. In the ad-based economy that has dominated all of media, whoever and whatever is getting those clicks wins. It’s obvious – the money comes streaming in if, and only if you can grab a certain percentage of the populace by any means necessary. And whatever products might suit a demographic who is taken up with a certain voice whether it be a vlogger, musical artist, or politician will assuredly be promoted to the top of your feeds and trending hashtags. Big tech and marketing are in cahoots and they trade in your data. What we learn then is how to game each other’s attention and here is where it gets dangerous.
The emotional motivations needed for us to share our lives with an amorphous public are vast but throw money into the equation and suddenly our true intentions of self-discovery through sharing our opinions gets really muddy really fast. We know that the most emotionally worded, vivid and divisive content is what packs the punch, and it’s absolutely why the casting of any reality tv must require the vetting of mostly respectful & thoughtful people. It’s true, we need to see your ugly and while the short-term payoff is definitely tempting – social cache, money, a feeling of relevance cannot pay off down the road because our intentions are often misguided by sub-conscious or consciously dark forces.
The backlash of the #metoo movement is proof of this. A person’s history matters. cancel culture is real and frankly it always has been if not at the national media level, at the familial. We see large companies getting backlash and major fines. Think of what Apple has gone through with the planned obsolescence of their older phones to get you to upgrade. They lost consumer confidence. Consider Boeing, Facebook, Wikileaks, and Johnson & Johnson. What once could be kept behind closed doors is now impossible. And it’s for the better. So, what if you’re a popular Anti-Vaxx mom blogger? Don’t think your endless tirades will bite you in the ass when your community’s smallpox outbreak is traced back to people listening to your holier than thou conspiracy theories? They will.
From micro to macro, it will become of greater and greater importance that you stood on the right side of history when it comes to the overall emotional, mental, and physical health of your world. And if you haven’t stood on that right side, it’s time to admit your wrongs post-haste and turn your ship around fast because your little piece of the pie is at stake. And it’s going to be difficult and nuanced to decide what the right side is as more information is collected and the sciences discover more and also disprove some of their original theorems. It’s super tricky stuff so before you hit send … maybe consider how much dedication and time you’ve put into understanding both sides of an argument. Have you cross referenced that link? Do you know what snopes is and can you tell the difference between satire and sincerity? Have you had an in-depth conversation about the particulars of a subject with an objective person over coffee?
Right now, I think we are on the cusp of some major meltdowns as the election year is in full swing. But when the dust begins to settle and our information age infancy has grown to hopefully sophomoric levels – I’m a realist after all – those that continue to grow and stand will be consistent in their ethics, will have the ability to immediately admit when they are wrong as soon as their thoughts have evolved past the initial sting of shame and guilt. It will be the only way to maintain consumer faith in what your selling, whatever the hell that might be. Because everything you choose to share, every narrative you choose to exploit, all of your experimentation from ideals to hairstyles, will be logged forever. And should you choose to altogether remove yourself from the sharing equation – like it or not – it will seem suspicious or worse … you will look like a coward. Share away, but pay close attention to why you believe what you do and what forces are at play that motivate your need for the world to hear your voice.