FOR THE GRAM

We may never reach a point of overemphasis in saying that social media is revolutionizing how humans do things. It is an agenda setting avenue for different ideologies. Through it, dated and unfashionable social behaviour is corrected while new ones are advanced. Many positive courses have been championed through it. Many people have got help through it too.  But the social media revolution has come to affect humans in a way that is quite different and worrisome. Many anti-social behaviour have been enabled by social-media. We have seen people egged on through live streams as they committed suicide. The people who watched them never cared to help them survive. They did not bother to summon any mental health agency. We have seen people gather for drug fest, taking pleasure in overdosing on harmful substances while making videos and posting on social media.

Few weeks ago, a friend complained about how people rush to show sympathy and mourn people on social media. He classified their action as an unnecessary show-off since these mourners did not quite celebrate the dead person when he was alive. He was more perplexed that at the evening of tributes organised in honour of this particular dead person, when he expected all those who, through their various social media handles, expressed their grief to express same at the ceremony, nobody did.

At about the same time of my friend’s complaint, there was a video of a young man assaulting a 78-year-old woman inside a subway station in Bronx. It went viral on social media. While I looked with disgust at the heartless action of that young man who hit the old grandmother violently, fitting outrage was also poured for the three young men whose only reaction to that horror was just to swipe their phone and make videos while oohing and aahing. None of them deemed it fit to do something tangible to protect the woman. No one went close to check on her and offer her some help immediately after the incident.

Something is quite puzzling about social media behaviour. The new social media fad demands that someone always wants to be the first to put the video of the happenings out there; to be the first to gather the likes and have the trend form around them. There is the new orgy of likes and retweets; the social media sickness, the insatiable quest for clout, drawing breath only from the number of likes and shares. We are running a psychological shift that seeks satisfaction only from abstract expression fuelled by anonymity. But it is an anonymity that makes social capital out of tragedies where help is seriously needed.

While I discussed with my friend, he argued that people exhibit some of these negative social media behaviours because they take pleasure in other people’s woes. I honestly doubt that. I doubt if there is someone practically waiting, perhaps hoping for misfortune to strike just so they can broadcast it. The shift that the social media culture has effected in the psyche of humans is the reason you see people in an accident scene more interested in catching a video for the gram than in helping injured people. Most times, they are not gloating. They are just triggered by a default reaction buoyed by social media behaviour.

The next thing social media does is to give people a voice and an avenue to vent anonymously. It is a medium to vent with very little accountability. As the popular lingo goes, it’s an avenue to “vent in peace.” People can write tons of words, express deep grief over the passing of a loved one without being able to do that physically in public. It affords people the opportunity to live a masked life away from public scrutiny.

We are all racing, albeit sadly, towards an unreflected humanity. You may have noticed it or you may have not. But this is a humanity spurred by momentary ecstasy. Something happens. The immediate reaction is euphoric. Frenzy. Social media has become the only means of expressing grief for tragedies – a phenomenon made popular by the increased yearning for outside validation. No one wants to be seen not to belong. Sometimes, without adequate care, those who restrain themselves from this nouveau madness begin to see themselves as abnormal, even, unfit. Gradually, some will catch the bug and join the frenzy. No, deep within, they are neither baying for blood nor for tragedies. They are only thirsty to satisfy this new culture.

Funny? Saddening? I can’t really say.

The bystander effect is another prominent feature of this age. So, while there is an accident victim down and desperately in need of help, humans who should offer help are more content with making a video of the person and posting on social media. The social media age has birthed a monster, apathetic in nature, seeking only clout from events that should evoke sympathy. Where we go from here is really a matter of concern. Is there any end in sight? Have your say in the comments.

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