Have you been reading Facebook lately? Everything’s about coronavirus. I scrolled through my feed Wednesday night before going to bed and every single article was about this current pandemic.
Coronavirus and toilet paper jokes. Numerous cancellations of public events and toilet paper jokes. Coronavirus and, oh wait, someone is legitimately angry about not being able to find toilet paper.
I clicked out of the application, and immediately clicked back in again as a reflex. I caught myself as I did and realized how intrusive and addictive social media has become in our lives. Not that recent news isn’t compelling now. This illness and the reaction to it is definitely different than all the other big sicknesses that have come before it.
I’m choosing not to panic and stock up on supplies like the apocalypse is at hand, but I am taking precautions and steps to keep informed while ensuring my health and safety. I don’t like getting an average cold. I definitely don’t want whatever this is.
Even without the lure of a big news story, I’ve come to realize how much social media has changed our lives, how we interact with people, and how it rewires our brains for the “reward” of expecting our friends and families to constantly provide us with news, updates, or making that one post that earns the validation of multiple “Likes.”
It sounds silly when laid out like that, doesn’t it? There’s a genuine market for “Likes” in today’s business, as it is has become its own form of currency, and people “sell” whatever earns the most. Imagine having to perform non-stop posting that perfect angle, that perfect facial expression for every single “candid” photo you take, or constantly posting broad claims and rumors. It seems exhausting.
That’s nothing to say that we don’t necessarily exclusively “own” anything we post on social media anymore. It all becomes part of “their” site’s overall content. Social media sites are able to build entire psychological profiles on us. What we like, what makes us angry or upset, our personal interests….
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve had discussions with friends on the most random of subjects, check into social media, and find ads and “relevant stories” targeted toward me about that specific conversation, no matter how obscure. It’s not coincidence.
Social media has even conditioned how we talk to each other. My social media is not exclusively just friends. It’s a networking list of personal and professional contacts, family, friends and some random person who seemed cool in a bar that one time.
I’ve had to think about what I put on my social media, how others will see me, and yes, judge me for my words. I’ve tempered everything from humor to interests like games I play and movies I watch because it might not go well for all audiences.
We also have our “real world” and “online” personas. Can you imagine a real life conversation with that one troll who screams a literal word salad in all caps online? Can you imagine holding a conversation with those contrarians who challenge everything you say?
“This hamburger is delicious.”
“No it isn’t. Let me tell you why.”
I have three of those myself. There are also all the memes people share to prove their point in an argument. Memes are meant to be funny, not factual. People post news stories, yet don’t read past the headlines or see if it’s a credible source of information. It adds to that fear and social media tailors itself to continue that.
It would be interesting to re-imagine a world without social media. Despite all my wariness of it, the go-to network it’s created would be next to impossible to break free of because of the connections I’ve built into it. I admire the people that do manage to break away, because it certainly can be a lot of noise.
After I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook again, as is routine. Everything is still Coronavirus, and that looks to be the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. There have already been a lot of wild claims, so check and re-check multiple sources. Not everything you see on social media is going to be true. A reliable source to check is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.
For morbid curiosity, I checked eBay for the price of a 30-plus roll of toilet paper. Prices ranged anywhere from $50 to $90. For clarification, toilet paper doesn’t offer any special protections, and it’s never been considered a standard emergency staple. Look for what you need right now, not for what trends.