Why are you on Facebook?

Vivien Leigh

 

When Laurence Olivier was asked by Dustin Hoffman, why they did what they did as a profession, which was acting, Laurence Olivier came as close as 5 centimeters away from Dustin Hoffman, looked into his eyes and said: “Look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me…” Thus is, I maintain, the biggest reason for anybody to join a social network – vanity.

It is based on a basic human need and force: to be understood. It is very much like the days when radio was first broadcasted all over the country. Everything that came out of that box, the radio, was believed to be true. People were running up the mountains and hiding for weeks, after they had heard either through other people or they heard it themselves: America would be attacked by aliens from the planet Mars. Orson Welles’ radio production of War of the Worlds was so powerful that it led to a disaster that would make the people invent stories themselves of having been attacked by a creature foreign to this world. We can be glad that the shows and commercials nowadays have lost their sense of reality to the extent that you can almost not mind or at least laugh about them, certainly you could identify them as just a show.

Unlike the early days of the radio, people may not believe everything that comes up in the online media stream, but because people want to be understood and heard, what remains is this: People believe what other people say about them through what they click on, what they like and what they comment. For what other reason is there for posting one self-portrait after another whereby the comment of those portraits can be liked again?  People are happy, when other people like their pictures. They are mad, if the comments are mad. The real danger, though, is that all this happens unconsciously so that people won’t want to admit that, indeed, they do care about the number of comments or the number of shares. For many people a social platform becomes their social reality. And is it the reality that represents what deserves to be called the truth?

It is important to differentiate between platforms and, more importantly, the realities of different professions. On Twitter, many politicians may very well justify that spreading news or what people think about certain current debates does not only have an impact on coming elections, they like or should like to say that this may have an influence on the issues themselves and what they want to achieve to help the people – and, using people’s social media abundance, it is faster than any other medium. What so often happens, however, is that you only follow what you like and what you like to hear. Why would you follow something or someone you are not interested in? Because you may otherwise end up thinking in a very enclosed and limited way where you not just don’t mind certain problems that occur around the world, you ignore them. You are blinded by a reality that is so very distant and foreign to the true world around you. To make things worse, for some reason not strong enough to make me see why they are doing it, companies have decided to show you anything but what you didn’t see or share so far. In other words, what you liked at the very beginning determines what is being suggested to you. Unless you actively seek for other material, you end up being fed with what to like and already seem to know. I was always told to connect with the people I really know. Today, I am wondering whether in a globalized world we are told to live in this can keep up the idea of a world where ideas are shared and exchanged not just in one social group.

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