We all get hit with a bout of nostalgia every now and then as we remember and reminisce at the halcyon days of yore. Yet as human beings, I don’t think that our nature can allow us to ponder these things for long without thinking forward at what is to come. Obviously, we are finite creatures and will one day perish, not only as individuals, but also as a part of the collective identity of humanity. It is indeed a disturbing thought, however we must realize the beauty in the ephemeral. The fact that things wilt and weather makes them all the more precious.
As much as I love delving deep into philosophical discussion, it’s just as important to consider the implications of what goes on at the surface of human life. We are by nature social creatures and crave contact with others. Coupled with the fact that we love being in the company of others who share our opinions, the rise of social media was inevitable. It allows us to connect with an immense number of people who are just like us. These groups are commonly referred to as “echo chambers,” where our opinions, whether correct or not, are amplified. These are essential for advertisers looking to make a meaningful impact, but are even more useful when spreading ideologies. Politicians and news organizations constantly tap into social media to influence the beliefs of people all over the country. What I think is particularly dangerous about this is the degree to which social media has infiltrated the opinions of uneducated people. It is essential to the function of the country that we elect competent politicians. When poorly educated and highly opinionated people are responsible, the results cannot be good. When one company is able to use its algorithms to control the influx of news to the population, when they show more conservative news to right wing voters and more liberal news to left wing voters, the echoes are further amplified. Today’s political scene is the most partisan since World War I started in the early twentieth century. Rather than spreading people apart, it is our duty to bring them together, to unify the public into one cohesive America.
I recently read Eugene Wei’s excellent (although I may say, quite lengthy) post about the fundamental nature of humans — that of status seeking monkeys. His theory of why people use social media is really able to explain why some networks succeed while others don’t, and why the demographics of each are the way that they are.
“Status as a Service (StaaS),” by Eugene Wei, February 19, 2019. https://www.eugenewei.com/blog/201—9/2/19/status-as-a-service. This lengthy blog post goes in depth into the rise of social media and how it adapts to our fundamental being as “status seeking monkeys.”