Someone said to me recently, “Social media is dumbing down the world’s population.” Now I don’t know about you but I just love sweeping unsupported statements like that, don’t you? But I’ll admit it did get me thinking.
Are people getting stupider? Anecdotal evidence (i.e. the only kind I have) suggests that yes, they are. But I don’t think social media is the cause as much as it is an effect.
Simply put, thanks to social media, stupid people now have a platform to announce their stupidity to the world at large. Anyone can go on the internet and say anything, and there’s not much anyone else can do about it.
Which is not to say that they don’t try.
Certain persons have charged themselves with the task of correcting people’s grammar. Homophones in particular seem to vex many of us, especially “you’re” and “your,” along with “there,” “they’re,” and “their.” Do misuses of these words indicate stupidity? No, not in and of itself. I know several people who are quite intelligent who mix them up.
There is also an increasing reliance on abbreviations. On a forum such as Twitter, in which there is a limit to the number of characters you can use, this makes sense. Otherwise, not so much. And of course there are millions of Twitter users who manage to post intelligible ideas using complete words. So we know it is possible.
But as this lowering of standards becomes more and more commonplace it is increasingly accepted. Still, I don’t think this is the result of stupidity as much as it is laziness.
So where does the stupidity come in? Ah, here’s the trick. See, it’s not so much in the written word as in … the photograph. Lately I’ve been seeing entire articles devoted to people who have injured or killed themselves or others in the quest for the perfect selfie. You might be thinking, “Hey, let these people sort themselves out. Their Darwin Awards will be handed out posthumously.” And I won’t argue.
But the phenomenon does intrigue me. I mean, why are people so determined to take a thousand selfies a day and inflict them on an unsuspecting world? Have we become that self-absorbed? OK, dumb question. Clearly narcissism is running amok in the world today. And of course this preoccupation with selfies seems to be nothing more than a symptom of a larger problem: the need to take pictures constantly of everything.
I went on vacation last year. I was gone for a week and in that entire time I took three pictures. When I got home I was asked why I didn’t take more photos. The truth was that it never occurred to me to take pictures; I was too busy living the experience.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand why people take photos, especially on vacations and such. It’s great to have photographic evidence of one’s experiences; it helps to relive the memories. I’m not running that down.
But there’s a happy medium. If you visit the Grand Canyon and take a hundred pictures of it, I get it. It’s a breathtaking sight and one you might only get one chance in a lifetime to see. Do you need to take twenty-five selfies during the car ride there? Do you need to share photos of the omelet you ate for breakfast that morning? Offhand, I’d say no.
At this point you may be thinking, “Well, if you’re so tired of seeing this stuff, unfollow/unlike/unfriend whoever is doing it.” And believe me, I do. But I refuse to believe I’m the only one who is sick of the photographic overload.
There is a saying: “Pix or it didn’t happen.” Don’t you believe it.