As you can probably tell by now, a lot of my posts are about social media and how we act within and around it. Indeed, I started writing this blog as a gateway from posting in social sites like Facebook et al. This maybe anecdotal but I observed that my thoughts were becoming more and more sporadic the more I used those sites and since we are our thoughts, I was gradually becoming a sporadic person as well.
Social media sites are eventually like any media sites - they hog up our attention. Traditional TV channels do the exact same thing. The difference, I believe, can be attributed to two factors - rate of consumption and feedback from the viewer.
Rate of Consumption
This is a no-brainer - consuming anything too fast, be it food or information, is simply not good for the body/soul. I do understand why there's a panic among parents with kids using TikTok, given how fast they go through each video (and a video is already packed with a lot of information! sound, image, comprehension etc). But if we are to be fair, the same panic should also be applied to Facebook Newsfeed and Twitter feeds.
Now, why would consuming information too fast be bad for us? I am not a psychologist but common sense leads me to believe that whatever we hear and see, we somehow incorporate it into our behavior. A person who watches news channels 24/7 has a distinct vocabulary that they use. They also have a different tonality while talking which may or may not mimic the news anchors. But traditional media is slow and cumbersome. It takes a while for us to incorporate the mannerism from those media into our personalities. Sure, we still go through different behaviors throughout our lives that were influenced by media at some point, but each set of behaviors stays with us for a relatively long time.
Now with the internet, the effect has increased tenfold. With every bit (no pun intended) of information that we are consuming, our behavior is trying to adjust and stabilize. But stabilization requires time and we are giving our body none of it. It's as if we can not reach an equilibrium. One second someone on the internet is telling you to have positive energy and the next second, someone else is telling you that too much optimism is not good either. Your mind and soul are in this constant flux of change that somewhere down the line, we feel confused. But we don't understand why we are feeling confused.
You may think you are growing as a person by hearing other people's opinions, reading their experiences, but at the rate we usually consume them, we are not giving our mind any chance to actually absorb all those information. If you are always working on the clay, you will never get to create a sculpture. You might think you are making progress, but in reality you are just stuck in a loop.
If you are always working on the clay, you will never get to create a sculpture
Feedback from audience
This is the second point that I mentioned in the beginning - feedback from viewers. Traditional media had very limited access to feedback from their audience. It was tough collecting data about what the viewer enjoyed or didn't like, or what they would rather enjoy instead. Enter the internet (again) - media publishers can now collect and observe data about each behavior you make while consuming the content. How you are handling the phone while you are watching the content - they use sophisticated gyroscopes to detect if you are standing or sitting while watching it. The movements you make to detect whatever keeps your attention. And the obvious one - create a personality profile from your viewing history. Armed with all these data, they can surgically influence your behavior and thus your personality.
I know that by now this is a pretty common knowledge. That the social media sites build a personality profile based on your past behavior. But this becomes a serious issue when combined with the first point - rate of consumption. You see, the more you consume information, the more they have to tweak your personality profile. And the more they tweak your profile, the more behavioral changes you acquire and that too at an extreme rate. So that unnerving feeling of not being settled slowly seeps into your mind. You can't relax if you are always running. Same goes for your mind - you can't feel at peace if your mind is always running.
When it comes to these Internet giants, I do believe that the phrase "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity" fits them perfectly. I don't believe that they are doing all these to have a total grip on the population, like some kind of evil mind control machine. But the fact remains that the unintended consequence that it has is not a good one.
I met quite a few people as of late where I noticed that they can not realize where they stand with their opinions. Sure, it is okay to question your opinions and even flip 180 on them but if you are constantly changing your opinions based on whatever you browse, you will never have an opinion in actuality. And your personality is made up of your opinions and if you are not sure about your opinions, it becomes difficult for you to realize who you are as a person.
It is okay to follow a trend, but it is not okay to actually become that trend.