I’ve written specifically about social media a number of time before. Prior post include, Is social media creating forces to end racism?, The Dangers of the Politics of Respectability, People Don’t Forget, People Are Overwhelmed, The Medical Industrial Complex, and A Call for Input.
So far, my comments have generally emphasized the positive opportunities engendered by social media. Today, however, I am thinking about what I shall call the “clichéd conformity” that reigns across Facebook and other social media platforms.
For example, Upworthy posted an article about California’s new law that requires one to be twenty-one in order to purchase tobacco products. The comment thread shows basically absolutely zero original thought, which is not unusual for any comment thread.
Commenters left the “if-they-can-sever-the-nation-they-can-,” “government-overreach,” and “criminals-don’t-follow-the-law” comments again and again. A few people shared personal stories but none were particularly unique. All of these comments are perfect examples of “clichéd conformity.” In general, only those opposed to the new law commented, but a few people left the “it-will-discouraged-young-people” comments. Even these comments only manifest within a certain socially pre approved domain.
In addition to a couple of hundred basically uniform comments that can at best be divided into a half-dozen categories, over 5,000 people “liked” Upworthy‘s news update. While we all enjoy getting a “Like,” simply hitting the “Like” button is at least sometimes just as much an act of “clichéd conformity.”
My concern based on this example and other research I have done is that social media, while it is clearly making new forms of grassroots movements possible, is also increasingly the degree to which people passively agree within a certain narrow range of possibilities and maybe even additionally decreasingly the amount of original thought expressed by people.
My challenge for you, then, is to avoid the temptation of simply hitting “like” and moving on or leaving some kind of very predictable comment and moving on. Instead, try to think of something original to leave as a comment. This exercise will for sure benefit you and keep your mind fresh, but there will also be one more fresh comment out there for the world wide web to sort.
Andrew Joseph Pegoda