In the last two weeks, a serious and potentially cataclysmic international crises has been simmering in Ukraine. A government MP has been in court facing six charges of rape. A world famous athlete has been on trial for murdering his super model girlfriend. Tabloid newspapers have came under intense criticism for publishing mawkish shots of a world famous rockstar in the grip of untold grief. Today, the UK’s budget is being announced, replete with the continuance of eroding living standards for the vast majority of it’s citizens. There is a jumbo jet that has vanished into thin air, two national treasures are dead and what do we have to say about any of this?
Nothing, because we’re taking turns to nominate friends for a no-makeup selfie on Facebook. To raise awareness. Later, after a predictable and unfortunately misogynistic backlash, people who sat back in the early stages waded in to announce that they had donated nominal sums to justify their selfie. Cancer research sites thanked those who took part in the awareness raising- they did raise some money, once people had highlighted the hypocrisy of not doing so.
Well now I think it’s time to take stock and raise some actual awareness. Awareness of how little self-awareness we have in Internet Britain, 2014.
Awareness of how self indulgent we are. How comfortable people are with hijacking serious causes like Cancer research, and using it as a vehicle to fish for compliments. How have we got to this stage?
Slacktivism has been increasingly noticeable on social media over the last few years. What began as viral ad campaigns cooked up in marketing departments has evolved into something utterly meaningless. Everything now is for a cause- the cause being the namedropping of some hideous illness or misfortune, in relation to a spurious activity designed to impress relative strangers on the internet.
It wasn’t very long ago that people did nice things to help others. Whilst charity has always brought along with it opportunist self-made saints, it used to be that in order to bask in the warm, self satisfied glow of public adulation you actually had to do something. Go abroad to serve on a mission, work in a soup kitchen, volunteer for the salvation army. Maybe even volunteer at a charity shop, a dog kennel, spending time with the elderly. These things used to happen (and still do, probably), and despite the fact that it’s hard to stomach the true motivations many people had for these things, at the very least they were doing them, and we could do nothing but grudgingly tip our hat to even the most odious of them.
Thing is, people today have very little connection to each other, really. We’re all living in some imagined Facebook world. Our traditional idea of interacting with each other has been transformed into a world of text and images, where we can fashion our own identity within the confines of a uniform social media profile.
This imagined, Facebook existence is so influenced by the world’s obsession with celebrity that the Facebook game has become an effort of hitching your flag to the latest bandwagon and riding it until you’ve gained enough likes to convince yourself people actually like you. Maybe it’s because our generation grew up with reality TV, and our world was fashioned by a strange democracy where your popularity in relation to groups of people was legitimised by votes. Very few of us, in this day and age, are comfortable with the concept of people not liking us. In fact to be comfortable with the idea that someone might be directly opposed to your principles is seen as strange, and alien.
All this can be reduced to the fact that so many people are unaware of the fact that they are uncomfortable in their own skin. They cannot face who they are, so they construct a persona to project to the outside world that cares about the trivial things other people care about. They want to be the person who delivers the warnings, delivers the information about carjackings at petrol stations and children being shaved by muslims in Asda toilets. They want people to know they’re patriotic, because other people might agree with them and then they feel part of something.
Feeling a part of something is the key thing. So many people live fractured, disassociated lives that they have very little self awareness. They do not know who they are, so they manufacture a cartoon that exists online and force that cartoon to become part of whatever social meme is doing the rounds.
Social Media is becoming increasingly worthless. It has eaten itself, and now we’re slowly watching our correspondence descending into effluence.
And as a result, the people who are actually aware of the real world and comfortable with others criticising them have become the weirdos.