It seems with each passing day, each subsequent rising and setting of the sun, the world becomes a more confusing place to live. This confusion might be represented partly by regressive intellectual behaviour, and I feel that social media is largely to blame.
Social media hasn’t been all bad. The ability to share information via the World-Wide Web has aided in furthering our knowledge of the world around us, promotes international trade and commerce and allows for people to communicate with one another over long distances.
There are many more amazing abilities that this particular technological medium has given humans, but there is also a very dark and potentially dangerous side to the immense power of social media.
The appearance of widely popular social media platforms in the previous decade has formed the basis for what we know today to be modern social media. Early intentions of these social media applications were similar to those of the creators of the early Internet — that is, to communicate with other people via computer over distance. However, social media has evolved immensely over the past decade into somewhat of a monstrosity.
People today frequently turn to social media to vent, to rant and in search of not-so-intellectual debate. The majority of social media platforms have evolved from the benign communicative tools that they once were into locales that encourage the dissemination of garbage, negativity, stupidity and divisive opinions. Prime examples can be found in the comments section of almost any contentious issue discussed within the realms of social media.
It is all too easy for any individual with an opinion and an unwillingness to see the big picture to get involved in a heated online debate. However, I tread lightly here. I am by no means saying that any one person should not have the right to express their thoughts, beliefs or opinions. All people should have the right to freedom of expression and speech.
Simultaneously, I’m also a huge proponent for the promotion of debate, logic and critical thinking. The ability to think critically in order to solve problems is what sets humans apart from any other mammal.
Today, more than ever before, there is a need for critical thinking to solve the world’s complex problems, but this is certainly not what is being witnessed in many corners of the Internet and on social media.
Unfortunately, social media is a medium of communication that too frequently facilitates the exact opposites of debate, logic and critical thinking. This regressive behaviour is exacerbated by the fact that one can hide behind a computer and say things they might otherwise not say to someone face-to-face.
People become nasty on social media. They attack one another all too often. Whether it be regarding a trivial matter or an intensely contentious issue, people insist on attempting to have their opinion oust and rise above any opposition. Collaboration and the progression of intellect are not terms that would describe well the majority of the babble found throughout social media.
Rather than working together to solve problems, accepting opposing world-views and conceding to the truth, people are blinded by confirmation bias and the validity effects resulting from misinformation and a lack of independent research.
With each passing day it seems these issues grow worse. Based on the “conversations” I witness on social media, I feel that society is taking a step backward in the evolution of intellect. Critical thinking and structured debate are given a back seat as emotion trumps logic.
So maybe the solution to this great big mess is to just shut down our computers and phones for a bit. Go outside, see the world for what it is, and engage our fellow citizens in a civilized and structured conversation regarding solutions to the world’s great problems. It’s been done for thousands of years before the existence of social media and it’s what has made humans so successful.
It might just be time to accept that social media has simply been a human experiment. It’s been a human experiment that has failed.
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor