Social Media Thwarts Real Discussion


Sam Goff

We live in an incredibly fast-paced world. Think about it for a second. The cliché is unavoidable, but try to imagine you are in the car driving south on the 101 at 80 miles per hour (that fact alone should be amazing — that we can travel at such speeds in the first place).

You are just beginning to let this awe-inspiring thought sink its roots into your mind when a Facebook message beeps on your phone and your slowly building reflection on movement is zapped into the netherworld of your brain. “So we’ll see you between 8:30 and 9, and don’t forget the Four Loko,” reads the message from your fellow cosmopolitan comrade.

It is safe to say that you probably are not going to return to that contemplation of highway travel. There is nothing wrong with that. Giving head space to a quandary that has no clear answer instead of focusing attention to tangible problems and situations is a fairly unsocial thing to do in our society.

But it has become a frightening truth that the very nexus of how people communicate today — through a variety of instant-message platforms — is termed social media. Our individual selves actualized through social media are involved in a constant production of shared ideas and reactions to those ideas. The rate of turnaround at which a response is expected of an idea shared on the internet is very fast, aggressively so.

Consider the issue of police presence in Isla Vista, especially around our local holidays like Halloween and Deltopia. If an Internet dialogue is started, the system favors the commentators who speak up first and are very partisan with their ideologies.

The voices in favor of less police activity will get into an emotional argument against the opposite side, and the essential quality of the argument — the  argentum — is lost to immediate and emotional responses. Issues like this do not have one clear answer, but perhaps several answers with their own logic. Most importantly, coming to these responses takes time, which a forum like the Internet does not afford.

By its very nature, a competitive mode of thinking does not allow for enough time for an individual to philosophically ponder outcomes. The very real and politically-charged issue of law enforcement in Isla Vista cannot be relegated to an Internet debate. People should not be okay with loud thumbnails dictating the discourse through emotionally-weighted comments and responses, all of which are happening within ten seconds of each other.

Because this problem is an ongoing issue, many people feel strongly about it. Yet we sacrifice the possibility of digging deeply into the meat of the issue with fellow Isla Vistans for a simplistic and cheapened version of the discussion because the pressure is to not to dwell on issues. We may find that many talking heads chime in with their feelings and thoughts regarding I.V. police, but this aggregate of input is hardly communicating anything to solve the issue. The so-called enhanced level of connection between us Facebook users is more accurately described as an augmented degree of competition.

If we are concerned then with edging out our peers in a preconditioned system of internet-approved ideas, rather than exploring an idea from its germination to its flowering, we will lose sight of other possibilities of how to interpret ideas in the first place. Instant reactions give us one sense of fulfillment, and when we compare the laundry list of other people’s reactions to our online output against our “friends,” the natural course we take is either one of jealousy or superiority.

To begin to answer real questions of life and politics, one must compromise his or her attention on instant forms of communication and quite literally turn away from the computer.

Yet to do so is not a sacrifice we are readily willing to take. We have to forgo the possibility of being social prodigies to philosophize about a problem. We must reorient our internal clocks to think about time differently.

The internet abuses time. We can renew our relationship with temporality, but it won’t be a pristine, New Age-y type of rebirth. And the Internet won’t tell you what it’s going to be like either.