Following on from my previous post “in balance”, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of disconnection - that is, how social media has severed meaningful connections with others in meaningful ways.
Disconnection from family and friends. Disconnection from the self. Disconnection from society.
I’m going to go into a few of these individually in detail in a few months as I ponder these ideas.
The world we currently live on seems to thrive on disconnection. Social media has turned into what I would consider the world’s biggest paradox; it’s meant to bring people closer together, but we’ve never felt so far apart from each other.
Recent events over the last year or two have perhaps forced some of these disconnections, but even before this difficult time, we weren’t really ‘connected’ in a meaningful way online.
So how do we create, stimulate and maintain meaningful connections online?
Is it even possible?
At first, I believed that it wasn’t possible. The social networks of today are inherently designed to facilitate advertising, not connections with others. Individuals are not the true user, they are the product. Therefore it’s practically impossible for the connections we make on social media to be entirely authentic when they have the capacity for manipulation by multinational corporations for financial gain. That’s what they’re made for. Therefore, they’ll show you what they think you want to see, in order to generate clicks, and subsequent advertising dollars.
Imagine if every time you spoke with your friends, you had to spend a portion of that time with them… looking at advertising. How would that feel? How would that foster a meaningful connection?
This is exactly what social networks require of us today.
Advertising and socialising, in a bizarre duality, have become the norm, working hand in hand - and we’re at risk of teaching the next generation that this is normal. This is not normal.
There’s nothing wrong with the technology itself, the problem is that our cherished connection have been monetised. It has turned into a marketplace where individuals are mined for their data. The technology has, however, created meaningful ways to stay connected. It’s possible.
Social networks can create meaningful connections. We just have to change the way we use them. If at all.
Have you ever considered changing the way you use a social network, or changing the network you use, or even using technology in a new way? Many people don’t consider using blogging, photo sharing or other services that exist outside of the realm of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others which feature absurd quantities of advertising.
They exist, and they’re better.
It’s never been cheaper to host a website and share what’s important to you. It’s never been easier to create group chats with your friends (on private, peer-to-peer encrypted platforms) It’s never been simpler to stay connected in meaningful ways.
We have so much power at our fingertips that we tend to go with what’s easier online. Sure, the big social networks make it ‘easy’ to connect with others, but that doesn’t make it any more meaningful.
I would rather measure the quality of my most cherished connections based on how meaningful the communication is, and not whether or not we happen to be in a friend or follow list.
Think about the way you use these social networks, you might find those connections will strengthen if you change your online behaviour. After all, it’s the human condition to want to have strong and meaningful connections with others.
Make technology work for you, not the other way around. Otherwise, this feeling of disconnection is inevitable.