There’s something I’ve noticed for some time now, and I think it’s time I put my thoughts to paper (as it were). It seems to me that everything in our cultural landscape is “forcing” people into conformity. Let’s take as an example a major expression of our current culture: social media.
The way most of them work is that those you don’t agree with or want to hear from, you can unfollow, unfriend, or, get drastic and block. The thing is, most of us hit the unfollow button more frequently. What does this mean? Generally speaking, to unfollow a person means that said person is still considered a “friend”, otherwise, why wouldn’t one simply unfriend them? So, the person is still considered ok enough to have around on one’s social media, it’s just that something they keep posting is annoying or bothersome enough that we opt to unfollow. Fair enough. Thing is, nowadays, many people actually use that unfollow button to basically mute out the voice (or voices) they don’t agree with. The disagreement may be with regard to parenting, politics, sports, theological differences (so yes, within the Church!), fitness, lifestyle, and what have you.
Youtube and the almighty Google take things a step further and try to tailor what even shows up on your screen based on your viewing habits. They use your habits to guess at your interests and preferences, and then decide they know what you’d likely like. Truthfully, they tend to be right. I often feel like I’m being spied on a lot as a result. Lol. (looking over my shoulder right now as I type).
I have a little anecdote for you. One day months ago, as often happens, I remembered a certain friend out of the blue. I recalled that I used to have that person show up on my feed. I tried to think back to when last that happened. I couldn’t remember! Had it really been that long ago? (I know, I know, what kind of friend am I, right?). So I decided to look them up on Facebook. Oh! There they are! Alive and well! (And by that, I mean that they had posted as recently as the past day or two). What in the world?? I was baffled. Why wasn’t I being shown them all this while? I then wondered who else had disappeared (read: been wiped out) from my immediate view. I started pulling up friends. Childhood, high school, colleges, grad school. That was my lazy way of finding out what they were up to, etc. It was also a way of going down memory lane a bit. I found myself getting more and more annoyed. Who did this? Who filtered them out? And more importantly…why?
These are the issues. I recognized in that moment that the factors that drew me to these very people over the course of my existence thus far were being erased; I was unable to experience those factors in the now. Does that make sense? So, perhaps there was a friend in college you completely admired for her love of shoes. Another for his love of dance. Another for his hiking. Another for their piercings. WHATever the source of the attraction, there was (and dare I say still is!) a part of you that identified (and identifies) in that way with that person. Time has passed, you’ve grown up, taken on other responsibilities, have become a parent and so on. As it operates (algorithms and all), Facebook is thus saying that your only interest these days has to do with your CURRENT state of life. The result? Facebook bombards you with anything to do with parenting, road trips, I don’t know – fill in the blanks – because you have clicked “like” to something recently. Problem is, yes, I do like this thing, but I also like(d) this, and this, and that, and that. Those are all me. Many parts of me.
By now you’re wondering if I’m going somewhere with this. Let’s hope so. 😊 But, stick with me a minute. What I’m saying is that, in doing so, social media has created a one-dimensional view of you, me, and other people. Not only that, it then forges us together by that one-dimensionality. As such, you’re only linked with people who “like” or agree with what you post, and vice versa, even though, as I’ve demonstrated above, that post represents just one aspect of you. Get me now?
Where does that leave us as a society? Where are we headed if we are only connected to like minds? What happened to the days of getting to know people just as they were, warts and all?
My post is one that doesn’t tie it all together nicely for you. My hope is that the post prompts you and I to consider what we’re losing. I would argue that by losing access to the fullness of the range of humanity, we are actually losing access to parts of ourselves. I think we develop to fullness in community. Unfortunately, much has been lost. Let’s get it back.
We can’t trust the media bosses to help with that, truthfully.