This morning I woke up, felt underneath my pillow for my phone, then settled in for my morning social media ritual that starts with Instagram and ends on Facebook. I scrolled through my news feed, skimming through puppy videos and baby pictures. I read that gluten allergies are fake, an article about Kony claimed that he'd been spotted in Kenya and a new study showed that sleeping with your cell phone can kill you (to which my innocuous lifeline whispered, "I would never"). There were links to Fox News segments bashing Obamacare and clips of last night's Jon Stewart show in which he makes fun of Fox News. I pause my scrolling to watch a video of newborn kittens, which freezes when someone sends me an invitation to play Candy Crush. (For the love of God can't they see that I'm busy?) Meanwhile on my news feed a drama bomb has been dropped in the form of an article exposing Uggs for using sheepskin in their boots, which apparently, no one knew.
Let the outrage begin.
Social media is really good at outrage because of the speed and ease in which it spreads. With just a few keystrokes you can take up a cause without any real conviction, commitment or action. This passive outrage has become commonplace, due in part to the information overload of social media. With such a constant flux of ideas, images, opinions and information we've learned to browse on autopilot, filtering what we see and read with a certain amount of detachment. We skim through articles like speed-readers, occasionally missing the point or neglecting to research it before we share it or respond. The Ugg outrage is just an example of one of many instances I've noticed masses of people sharing and agreeing with something without considering the implications. People who eat meat, wear leather, even hunt were posting about the horror of sheepskin, completely ignoring the irony and hypocrisy of it.
Social media reminds me of a game show I once watched featuring a money machine. A man stood in a glass box and a high-powered fan blew cash around while he wildly grabbed what he could. I thought surely the contestant would come out of it a rich man, but was surprised when the machine stopped that there hadn't been very much money in it to begin with and the majority of the bills were singles. Much like the cash supply in the money machine, our individual social media machines are a relatively small pool to draw from. Instead of dollar bills we're arbitrarily grabbing recycled outrage, criticism and bias, preventing us from forming strong personal convictions and being passionate about those convictions. We end up with a very skewed perception of the world and a lethargic sense of ownership.
The way I see it you have two options. Stay in the machine, grabbing wildly at the opinions of others or step out and form your own.