**Note: I wrote this article a little while back. While the news I talk about didn’t just happen, the topic is unfortunately still quite relevant.
There is something seriously wrong with a growing portion of our society, and it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. Sunday much of the nation was shocked as they saw or heard that a deranged animal chose to execute an elderly stranger in cold blood and air it on Facebook Live. This is not the only time this and other acts of violence and suicide have been committed in recent years with social media being (at least in part) a motivating factor.
After the murder yesterday I’ve seen numerous articles posing the question ‘is social media to blame’ or similar exclamations of misplaced blame. Ultimately it’s not social media’s fault, but rather a values issue in our society. While most Americans can agree that the above situations are deplorable, I believe the underlying issue affects many in our culture.
It seems that a great amount of our society is greatly concerned about their social media persona. We’ve all seen it, and many are guilty of it. Just think about how many people you know fairly well and contrast that with their social media persona. The two often do not accurately reflect each other. You’ll see couples that are on the brink of separation posting pictures that show them as perfectly smitten with each other. That’s just one of so many examples of deception that populate your newsfeed. Why? It seems that the standard for honesty is extremely different in the virtual world than it is in the real world. Why do so many people care that much about what everyone else perceives of their personal lives?
I have some opinions on those questions, but that’s all they are. I believe there is something broke in our society and this is but one area that can be seen. Specifically speaking to the social media issue, I believe it boils down to a self-esteem issue. Despite what people exhibit outwardly many feel inadequate internally and seek to exaggerate their persona. I believe that this is somewhat of a self-feeding problem. So many of our society are worried about how they compare to their peers.
Meanwhile, everyone is exaggerating their internet presence and an ugly cycle of keeping up with the Joneses manifest. I don’t personally believe this desire to measure up is new. However, the standards continue to rise, and the continual reminding of how much better everyone is has become greatly increased with the popularity of social media. This somewhat explains why studies have shown that people who spend more time on social media show greater signs of depression.
So the obvious question is ‘how can we correct it’? I believe a great start to that is quitting with the ‘everyone is special’ mindset. Somewhere along the journey towards equal rights (a legitimate cause) we’ve ended up in a land where we embrace that everyone is created and performs equally. That’s not the case. While all of mankind should be afforded an equal opportunity not all will achieve the same marks. Society is full of all kinds from the stupid to the smart; ugly to beautiful; kind to evil; quitters to achievers, and all kinds of other differentiating factors. Rather than push the individual equality agenda, I believe we would be much better pushing an individual achievement agenda. A great example of this in play is the American Idol (and others like it) tryouts. Those tryouts are full of people who have been lied to their whole lives. While likely as an attempt to massage their ego it has ultimately set unrealistic expectations and made the inevitable failure much harder to deal with in the end.
Beyond this somewhat external influence on values, there seems also to be an intense desire among many to be special. While many of these people are often referred to as snowflakes, I believe the footprint of this character flaw is much further reaching. For some reason, it seems that the ultimate social status is that of fame, even if it comes as infamy like yesterday’s psychopath. Why or how our culture has become so infatuated with fame is anyone’s guess, but I suspect it has come with the rise and popularity of reality television. In this brand of entertainment, the average and often despicable of society get elevated to superstar and enjoy the wealth and fame that comes along with it. Is it possible that those who constantly entertain themselves with such shows have over time become indoctrinated to believe that is a goal to aspire to? I suspect so.
Unfortunately identifying the problem is but a small step in correcting it. That’s the ultimate question. How do we go from where we are to a society that once again values real individual achievements rather than the accolades that they can bring about? I suspect no single solution can easily repair us, but I do believe some steps in the right direction can be obtained. Below are a few that I think can influence the problem.
- As a Christian (though greatly flawed like everyone else) I recognize the lack of esteeming to please God as the number one problem with our society. Rather than seeking eternal reward and heavenly acceptance we have instead turned heavily toward immediate satisfaction. Turning our desire to please once again toward God and outside of our ego would be a great step toward a remedy. A note on modern churches. Many of the modern worshipping centers are perpetuators of our current problem. These are easily spotted by a pastoral staff that is viewed somewhat as a celebrity would be.
- Throttle back the social media or give it up altogether. Social media in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is only by our use of it that becomes the case. Stop comparing yourself to others in your newsfeed. Chances are you’re trying to live up to a falsely tailored story anyway. Regardless you should find contentment in your own life and real achievements. Rather than weighing how your actions will elevate your social status instead weigh how they will impact you and those you love. Seek to be a better person in general and focus on quality rather than quantity.
- Quit supporting and perpetuating the promotion of the despicable and worthless in our society. The only reason disgusting and morally depraved individuals are advanced in fame is by our support. If you find the individual’s actions disgusting don’t follow, watch or even discuss them. I recognize that the outlandish can be amusing at times, but do you really want to help perpetuate the bottom rung of the gene pool? I personally do not. I also can find a lot more productive things to do with my time than being amused by them.
These are just a few broad ideas and suggestions to help us get back on track as a society and in particular, abate the lust of fame. Even so, I believe they could make a great difference if the masses would adopt them. Then again maybe I’m operating on the false assumption that much of our society is equally displeased as I am. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.