Do people make others laugh in order to see them laugh? Or do people make others laugh in order to seem funny? While this sequence of questions is typically posed in a jovial way, it has some incisive commentary regarding social media in the modern world.
The joke over jokes reflects a bridge between what exists as a socially selfish aspect of our culture and a uniquely altruistic one. The methods in which we seek to do good for others often parallel with naturally selfish needs to find general acceptance. Sometimes before we seek to do good, we seek to be liked. In this case, altruism does not exist on its own.
Through the lens of our psyche, the world only exists in relation to us. Something exists through the way in which we interpret it, give it meaning and then treat it. It can be argued that with the rush of industry, technology and our own lives, we have evolved more and more into a society about the self and less about the self in relation to others. Inherent selfishness is being reinforced, if not dramatized, by a rise in materialism that is promoted through changing business and perhaps even the rise of social media.
Themes in our mass media reflect this shift. In a study at the University of Calfornia, it was noted that in modern literature, words have reflected a “move from giving to getting,” with “(the) use of the word ‘get’ (quadrupling) from 1800 to 2000.”
As materialism has become the new norm, social media and networking outlets have provided a new channel through which people are socially marketing themselves.
Instead of really doing things, we are in a constant competition with one another. Although the internet and the fast access to information would initially appear as a way to promote awareness of the world around us, Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram work as a means of doing otherwise.
On Facebook, there is a culture of sharing things “if you care.” While this can do wonders to promote awareness, if done in the right way, this also undermines the possibility for real action to take place. Instead of going outside and truly working to advance a cause, whether that’s promoting a political candidate, fighting animal abuse or otherwise saving the world, getting likes has become more important than getting results.
Last week I made an effort to collect petition signatures in the Mill Avenue District. With the EPA busy collecting public comments on Obama’s newly proposed standards to cut carbon pollution, I initially figured that my efforts would reap fulfilling results. Instead, I was disappointed by a paltry number of interested passers by.
Although it is overdramatic to say that people must not care about the environment, it was disappointing to spend hours petitioning only to garner 20 supportive signatures. There are a lot people who care, but there are definitely more people who do not care to listen. Immersed in their telephones, their beers, or their selfies, people are more engrossed in socially engaging with others rather than comprehensively engaging with the world.
I’m definitely not advocating that we stop our lives to try to achieve something bigger than ourselves, but I do ask that people stop and take a minute to ask if they really do care about something. Now how much do you care to do something about it?
Global climate change is not merely an issue, but now exists as a crisis. It does little for us, as a whole and as individuals, to care about things when it is too late. Instead of posting online, I challenge you to engage yourself in the real world by doing something big and for others. Not only is this truly altruistic, but the feeling this gives you is unlike any other. This feeling is definitely one that you will not find through likes on Facebook.
Reach the columnist at Alexis.Gonzalez@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @0Moscwow
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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