Wrong Way to Use Social Media

Food for Thought

Last year, Daniel and Filip invited us to a fantastic dinner at their home, so it was our turn. When the four of us meet, we always feel short of time but never of topics to discuss.

Filip noted that we use social media as a safety filter and, therefore, become incapable of facing reality. True; social media could only be a proxy for the real. So, when confronted by the danger of the real world, the uninitiated feel entitled to the same protective layer. That is, they want the real world to become virtual. That would be fine if it were possible, but the real is an inextricable part of the human experience. You may fear it, but you’d also be miserable if alienated from it.

Any powerful tool can also be destructive. It depends on how you use it. Every medium dictates optimal usage to some degree. As Marshall McLuhan noted, a hot medium like film is better suited for high-intensity content like drama and action films, whereas a cool medium like television is well-suited for low-intensity content like talk shows and sitcoms. So, what is, say, Instagram appropriate for?

The platform is full of what I’d call “objective expressions.” For instance, when you post a selfie expecting people to say, “You are beautiful” or “Like” it, you want to know how you measure up. Even vacation and wedding photos are competitive. Objective expression is a game of superiority. It is measured by universal standards. It yields insights into the universal but none into the subject. In contrast, subjective expression is a game of singularity. It cannot be compared or measured. It is meaningful to some and meaningless to others.

Instagram is not an academic journal or an accurate polling system. It is ill-suited for objective expressions, yet many people use it for that purpose and feel depressed or elated based on the utterly unscientific results.

My college roommate, a club promoter, thought people dressed to be beautiful on Halloween were boring. Her guest list consisted of “interesting” people. Although music is subjective, “pleasant” sound (consonance) is not. Human beauty also has those dimensions. On Instagram, too, follow “interesting” people, and you can expand your horizons.