The social media storm of preferences

Thumbing through the fading pages of my high school annual, I couldn’t help but to compare the 70’s to our current technological heyday. Had people back then been flooded with detailed information concerning everyone around them, I wondered how much different the pleasing images in my hands would be? It seems we were a much happier nation when folks were less preoccupied with everybody’s business. People enjoyed a great deal of privacy, and only a few busybodies were actually interested in investigating and spreading personal information.

It was a time when just by knowing someone was an American, you assumed they loved most of the same things you loved, and few were interested in heated debates over differences. Since there existed no vehicle for massively broadcasting everyone’s choices and beliefs, or a way to compile fountains of information on those in one’s social circle, most folks went about life in a sort of tranquil state of blissful ignorance.

Then Social Media danced into our lives. With the power of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, it became possible to know “crucial” information, like the grocer giving generously to the governor, the landlord liking lobbyists, the pastor patronizing priests, the exterminator endorsing eugenics, the dentist delighting in Ding Dongs, and on and on. Each of these juicy tidbits, served to allure us into the “virtuous” position of labeling and judging others. Intoxicated by a sense of superiority, not only did we begin devouring copious amounts of likes and dislikes, but due to smart devices, we began monitoring the preferences of *hundreds* of friends, most of whom should have naturally fallen off our radar years ago.

There is nothing that gets people more riled-up than discussions over *likes and dislikes*, especially when decisions have to be made. I heard of an established church which actually broke apart after petty arguments over the color of a simple carpet! As if planned for social destruction, it turns out that social media places great emphasis upon, of all things, *likes and dislikes*. It’s no wonder why there is so much division in our country. Society has been marinating in people’s wearisome preferences now for over twenty years.

Such a flood of information wreaks havoc on personal privacy and has a detrimental effect on the delightful things in life, such as mystery and intrigue. Once erased by a storm of often debasing information, our childlike perceptions of a virtuous, mysterious, and magical world all but vanishes. I’ve even noticed a difference in feature films, where technology has become almost indispensable for moving a story along. Though cellphones and drones are the last things one wants to see while being swept into a romantic adventure, current movies are teeming with such gadgets. In the extreme, Americans could become nothing more than robotic geeks watching films about other robotic geeks. Is this what we really want?

When examining our social media-driven lives, there is actually little to gain and much to lose from knowing every person’s imperfections. I used to think fondly of my childhood friends, but now that social media has clued me in to their quirks, political leanings, and imperfections, much of the nostalgic joy I once held has been replaced by shock, disappointment, and sadness. It’s as if we are all being perniciously robbed of our highly cherished memories!

When a fragrant rose is broken down into chemicals, molecules, and atoms, it may still be a rose, but its beauty and emotional impact goes right out the window. This is exactly how *excessive information* strips each of us of our perception of the beauty of life. It’s no wonder why so many among us are beginning to feel like despondent zombies.

The promise of unlimited access to knowledge once seemed like a dream to me, but now after years of gorging myself on a digital feast of useless minutia, I feel sickened by it all. As I slowly close my yearbook on the images of a happier world, I find myself good and ready to somehow fight my way back to the innocent days of love, laughter, and blissful ignorance.

Graphic credit: Pxhere CC0 Public Domain

Bryan is an artist, author, and photographer from Saint Petersburg, FL. His novel, "Cliff of the King" has received stellar reviews from Amazon, Kirkus Reviews, and Reader's Choice.

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