LIAM CULLINS

The Burden of Technological Omnipresence

One hundred-seventy million square miles. That’s a lot of Earth, but we’re fortunate because we live in a time unlike any other. With the invention of the Internet, we’re now more connected worldwide than we ever have been before. In a lot of ways, it’s truly an amazing recourse to have, the reasons of which I’m sure you’re well aware of, so I won’t bother going into them.

More and more, however, I’m beginning to see that people are growing weary of this level of connectivity. I come across books about how “unplugging” to a certain extent can actually improve your happiness, and many a Facebook friend of mine have expressed time and time again that they need a break from it all, because it’s too much to handle, and rightly so. Imagine this scenario: you see a group of your friends in a public place, and as you go to join them, you’re suddenly bombarded by dozens of people, some of whom you know, but who’re mostly complete strangers. They’re in this clustered mob blocking you from your friends, and all of them are exchanging nasty remarks and tearing each other apart verbally concerning social, economic, and political issues, and as you try and push your way through in order to meet up with your friends on the side, the more exhausting it becomes, and the more you begin to wonder if it’s even worth all this effort.

Obviously, this is a blunt metaphor for what I imagine most people’s Facebook wall looks like. If it doesn’t, you’re either new or you’ve found a way to “cull the herd”, in which case, I salute you, good sir or madam. Perhaps you’ve already realized this, but for those of you who haven’t, I hope this metaphor has opened your eyes to the complete lunacy of it all. In the physical world, this sort of scenario is not an everyday occurrence (though with Trump as president, I’m starting to think that may change), but with the intervention of social media and widespread mobile devices that can take photos and video, it gives us this sort of omnipresence that, quite frankly, we were never designed to cope with. Ever seen the film X-Men: Days of Future Past? It’s a fantastic movie, you should if you haven’t already. In the film, the Professor Charles Xavier of the past has begun to medicate himself in order to suppress his telepathic abilities, because among other reasons, he can’t take hearing all the pain and anger of so many people. As he says, “I open my mind, and it almost overwhelms me.” That’s kind of how I feel whenever I check Facebook, and I’m guessing I’m not alone on that front.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Now, I can already predict a couple of the counter-arguments that people may have, so allow me to touch on those:

These are important issues! People need to be aware of them! We must spread awareness!

In general, I completely agree. Most of the social and political issues I see on a daily basis, whether I agree with the stance or not, are issues that are definitely worth discussing, and I’m not trying to discourage people from doing so. However, I think people fail to realize the ease of which these issues gain traction online, especially when there are thousands of passionate voices behind it. A person who regularly checks social media is no stranger to LGBT rights, presidential controversy surrounding both Trump and Hillary, and Black Lives Matter, and at certain point, it ceases to be thought-provoking and just becomes overwhelming white noise. Especially with a massive platform like Facebook, a website that was created to connect people around the globe, there’s a temptation to post all your thoughts on everything as this sort of stream-of-consciousness tirade. However, I for one am always hesitant to do so, not because I don’t think these issues matter, but because most of the time, all it does it stir up pointless enmity and cynicism between friends and family members. In fact, I keep most of that sort of discussion here on my blog. That way it’s not constantly being shoved in everyone’s face, but it’s here if people wish to read and respond to it. In real life, everything isn’t constant bickering about social issues between your friends and loved ones (and if it is, then you seriously need to change that), nor should it be on any social media platform that you’re a part of.

You’re just sick of it because you don’t want to be exposed new and opposing opinions!

In a sense, you’d be right again. It’s just human nature to want to be comfortable in our beliefs and only surround ourselves with people and press that match those beliefs. First off, though, the fact of the matter is, no matter what side of the fence you’re on about an issue, chances are you’ve been flood with constant media promoting the opposite side of the argument. I’m in the minority in that most of my friends tend to take the liberal side on issues, and no matter what the issue is, the opposing arguments being made are certainly nothing new. Tell me if these sound familiar. “Trump is a racist. Christians are homophobes. The choice to have an abortion is a right that all women should have. Cops are prejudice against black people. The minimum wage should be raised.”

Referring back to my metaphorical scenario of having your friends blocked off by an angry mob, despite the importance of said issues, the constant psychological beatdown of having to wade through all the outrage is exhausting, and many people (myself included) are beginning to feel like it’s not even worth the effort.

So, how do we cope? Well, first off, we remember that we should take a minute and think before we share something. Is this incredibly necessary in this point in time? Do I honestly think other people are ignorant to it? Is it trying to spread awareness in a positive and friendly way, or is it the typical cynical antagonization of a person or group of people? Just earlier today I came across a quote that’s gone viral. While it’s being attributed to C.S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters, I’ve seen several websites claiming that it’s a misattribution, and the real author is seemingly unknown. It fits this post to a T, though, so whatever.

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

The Internet has, for the first time in history, provided a level of transparency and connectivity in our lives. We just need to remember to use it wisely. Thanks for tuning in.

Featured image credit: Mike Lowe on Flickr | CC 2.0 | Cropped, Color Adjustments

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