In the light of recent events of public shaming and bullying using Twitter and Facebook, I can’t help to think how the social media has affected me, at the least. I remember back in 2009 after I gave birth to my eldest, internet connection was not as handy as nowadays. Back then we subscribed to Speedy for several hours a month and we needed to sit in front of our PC to be connected. The troublesome of having to download pictures from camera/cell phone made me lazy to regularly post pictures and/or status. Things changed a lot in 2011 with the booming of tablet. The need to stay “connected” made PC become obsolete and Speedy become inefficient. We bought our first Galaxy Tab and cell number with 3 GB-internet access for easy access to the web. That event alone had kind of changed me to become a ShaRent ~ Sharing Parent. When I looked back I was very surprised to see myself sharing so much, so many things, even several times a day on Facebook. Facebook was the only social media (and later Instagram) that I felt convenient to be sharing myself in and to get updates from my community.
Being involved in social media has its own perks, advantages, and disadvantages. When I quit my job in 2009 social media was a way to tell myself that I still belonged to something. I might not belong to a company anymore, but I still had friends on Facebook and LinkedIn; I wasn’t totally disconnected from the world. However sophisticated the virtual relationship might seem, it can never replace the real interaction, action-reaction in direct contact among me and other human beings. Social media relies heavily on text. Other individual’s being is reduced from a face into a profile picture. Conversation degrades its meaning from involving voice and tone of the speaker, into voice and tone as responded by the recipient. If the recipient is in a bad emotional state, what might seem as a mere joke on a friend’s FB wall can be condemned as racist/insensitive/mean/you name it. The opposite also applies: what might be obviously a rude joke can be taken lightly when we read it when we’re being happy and content. It’s like having a person saying to your face: “Hey, your house just got robbed”, and smiling while he says it. Although what we perceive from the face of the news bearer and the content of the news itself differ, direct interaction can help us decide the proper reaction. This cannot happen in social media conversation.
In direct interaction the voice and tone with whom we speak decide the nuance and even the direction of the conversation itself. In texting/messaging through social media, the delayed response from the person we speak to might alter the whole essence of the conversation. Imagine having a delayed text-conversation in a real-life situation, where we’re meeting face to face with the person we’re conversing with, and out of nowhere the person suddenly leaves without any hint when he’ll be back or if he will continue the conversation. It disconnects us and creates confusion, a kind of “where was I/ what was I saying?” situation. Repeating ourselves in a delayed conversation is not fun, let alone benefits the speakers involved. The using of emojis in text conversation might be intended to present the tone/emotion of the speaker. Limited types of emojis and the ability to manipulate them while texting clearly indicate there is no sufficient substitute to direct interaction.
The lack of face presence in conversation within social media leads to intriguing phenomena of public shaming and bullying. Social media users are limited to user name and profile picture. Some of us are honest enough to say: hey what you see is what you get, me on the web is me in real life. Nevertheless more of us are hiding behind fake name/picture, for apparent reasons: to be anonymous, to hide real identity in order not to be held accountable/responsible for whatever we are (saying) texting online. Twitter users are the champion on public shaming/bullying. The openness and the anonymity of this media make people who don’t meet our standard or don’t behave as we behave, to be the perfect object of judgment, mocking, or even a channel to vent out our emotional distress. Facebook gives us facility to control who sees our profile, who can comment/post on our wall. On the other hand Twitter with its retweet function makes it almost impossible to withdraw or cancel a statement or news, no matter how foolish and playful they might literally mean. Trending topic doesn’t always imply positive recognition, but also mass anger and negative response towards what tweeps see as unsuitable to be around the web at certain moment. The facelessness of the mass, the uncertainty of people’s identities, and the lack of consequences after tweeting result in Twitter as the “perfect” tool for public bullying. Public shaming aims for repentance and behavior corrections, but not public bullying. Its only aim is to humiliate shamelessly one object upon (probably) an honestly inconsiderate tweet, until it finds more interesting object to humiliate. It never thinks how the person humiliated will feel, how public bullying might affect their emotional state, their physical being, their job, their life. It just shames on an object until it runs out of interest in it.
I’m not an avid Twitter user, and the recent events with Twitter and Path users have made me hesitant to share anything in social media that might be misunderstood. I see this so-called social media has changed me and many people I know to be as anti-social as:
1) Regularly checking our phone and neglecting the people we’re with.
2) Finding Wifi as a prerequisite to a hang-out place. Seriously?!
3) Unintentionally bullying other people over disagreement in online forum. The anonymity gives us right to say whatever we please, because we’re not facing them and we’re not known to them.
Social media is man-invented technology, merely a tool for a more improved life. Even though social media only shows me as a user name with a profile picture, I get to decide if it reduces my humanity and disintegrates me from compassion and empathy towards other people.