Social Media Victimhood

“he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.”  – Emerson

This quote is taken from an excellent article on leadership and solitude by William Deresiewicz. The article was particularly  interesting to me as it referenced my favourite book Heart Of Darkness extensively. I agreed with much in the article but the reason I wanted to write about it here is the way Deresiewicz criticises social tools as being mere distractions from real relationships.

I agree that we need to hear Emerson’s warning about drowning in other people’s opinions but I get really frustrated by an increasingly common victim mentality to tools. In fact I just gave up on reading Is This All There Is by Julia Neuberger because of her knee jerk “young folks nowadays” attitude to the web and modern culture. It is almost fashionable to make yourself appear more serious and worthy of attention by claiming to be above the noise on the web.

These folks need to get over themselves. Twitter and Facebook are just tools. If we allow them to be shallow distractions they can be. If we want them to enrich our lives and help us understand the human condition better they can do that too – it is up to us!

8 thoughts on “Social Media Victimhood

  1. Absolutely agreed. I believe figures even state that the majority of couples now first met over the net in some respect. No one is saying it's the best way to communicate but sometimes it's just the easiest or a way to reach people you wouldn't otherwise have access to.I can't begin to imagine how many ways the Internet has improved my life.People of certain ages, or having moved locations or jobs or whatever would despair at "meeting people". Meeting people had to be done in pubs or flower arranging classes or whatever. Meeting people was always considered a good thing it was just difficult. I'm pretty sure that the web has caused more people to meet in the flesh than ever before. How is that for enriching lives? And yet people would have you believe that bloggers and tweeters are lonely people hiding behind their computers. I think we are far from "drowning in opinions", if anything the problem might be the opposite – we pick who we friend/follow as they mirror our own beliefs. The opinions we hear tend to be our own repeated.But social media doesn't just provide us with a platform for our opinions it provides people to share them with. Using political protest as an example, half a generation ago we were still limited to writing a letter to The Times or carrying a placard if we disagreed with the status quo. For the most part though, certainly in public terms, having opinions was just for politicians and columnists. Living and working in Vietnam I like to remind people who talk about limited free speech here just how little the average westerner had not so long ago. It's amazing how many people have forgotten how small a voice we had back then.We talk now of the political bias of Rupert Murdoch and the like but back then if the media wasn't interested in what you had to say then there was no other soapbox.


  2. I think this is spot on, and I think reflects a broader tendency not to recognise the effects of our own individual and social practices around technologies, but to assign those effects to the tools themselves. And it might seem like nit-picking, but I'm really trying to be careful of my language around social tech. So, "I'm finding Facebook overwhelming at the moment" not "Facebook is overwhelming me". Even beneficial effects are ascribed to the tool, rather than people's practices using them. An example that came up in my recent dissertation research was people talking about Twitter *itself* being serendipitous. I'm interested in how this was described as a feature of the tool, rather than people seeing serendipity as a result of a practice of being open and sharing, using a tool that facilitates those behaviours.


  3. Aren't the observations from 'serious' people based on them being deafened by the noise and missing the signals? e.g. They base their views on 'celebrity tweets' rather than the genuine engagement that takes place.


  4. I think you are right David. In fact a lot of my book is aimed at people like that to help them see the wood for the trees and see the serious potential of the tools.


  5. I agree. Any tool can be vilified as a time-suck. It's how the user interacts with the tool that makes it useful or wasteful. Mindful and strategic use of social media tools can bring about tremendous value and benefits. Mindless and reactive use of the same tools can be degenerative and destructive. I have experienced both.


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