I have been a defender of social media. It has been my substitute for face-to-face social connection when I have been unable to engage due to illness.
I am not as much a fan, anymore.
I have very intelligent friends – highly educated, successful, articulate and artistic friends. And yet, the lowest common denominator surfaces and gains a voice time and time again on social media. Rather than bringing “friends” together in a time of crisis, social media seems to be polarizing and breaking down “community.” When consensus does emerge on one or two ideas, is it because we have given the issue due consideration or is it the product of harried individuals who do not wish to appear apathetic and so, succumb to peer pressure?
I suspect it is not through considered deliberation that consensus has been formed. In the days following the Paris attacks, how did solidarity with one group come to mean that one has no compassion for another group? How did compassion, prayer and meditation come to mean that one must be either a hashtag activist or a Zionist? When did we become so tired and lazy in our thinking that we allow such reductionist and judgemental conclusions of those we call our “friends” and how did we become willing to engage in shaming them in front of our entire “community?”
We are influenced by our surroundings. What that influence will be depends on our choice of surroundings. There is a theory of proximity that suggests that through a kind of intellectual contagion, we can make exponential leaps in collaborative innovation if we are in close proximity to other creative thinkers. This is, I suspect, the theory behind TED conferences and Silicon Valley clustering. There is also evidence of emotional contagion in adults.
Emotional and intellectual contagion can uplift or destroy our communities.
I long for inspiration and collaboration and that spark that comes from engaging with others working on very different pursuits but whose ideas and techniques fuel my imagination. I know I have a great network out there, and, like me, that network makes up a largely silent majority, just trying to make sense of life and do more meaningful work, in a meaningful way.
I am observing the people that I admire, this week. They are not engaging in social media polemics. They occasionally post something which may promote thought but they don’t debate. I have no idea how they are spending the hours they don’t devote to social media, but, I suspect that they are not wading through their news feeds to become offended or depressed. I hope that they are producing more of the work that I admire and living their lives in the way that I admire – engagingly, compassionately, thoughtfully and creatively.
And so, while I value proximity and I long for inspiration, I have decided to turn off my social media channels for awhile. I will follow the lead of those I admire, and post only what I hope is food for thought.
I am going to use my time to make more work with which others might wish to engage. If you are interested in non violent, non judgemental, creative exploration and dialogue and in committed action towards an artistic, spiritual and/or social or environmental goal, then let’s connect. I would love to learn from and be inspired by you and to share my own ideas and energy with you.
Perhaps we can find our way back to the meaning of friendship and community, together.