“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” – Albert Einstein.
On holiday in Dubai, I was looking over the Arabian Gulf and at the city in a morning haze, at the gleaming water with … a girl on her phone – posing for a selfie?! Fifteen minutes passed and she was still trying to find the perfect angle, then thirty minutes, then an hour. An hour of her life wasted. It was more important to have a picture of her seemingly having fun than actually having it: online reputation surpassed human interaction. The day that Einstein feared had come. Looking at this girl, I felt anger. And pity. This is my generation. I’m living with idiots. What kind of future will we have if it’s governed by the man-made devices we hold in our hands, populated by idiots living for the next notification buzz? Technology isn’t the issue; it’s what’s on it that’s dangerous. People spend more time on social media than they do eating and drinking. And some even believe they could last longer without food than without social media. These idiots will one day be vulnerable to powers that can use their addiction against them. But it’s more than just an addiction; selfishness emerges from social media’s obsession with self and image. We think that we control social media but soon – if not already – it will be controlling us.
Social media or Selfie media? Instagram has over 23 million photos with the hashtag #selfie, and 51 million with the hashtag #me. The whole concept of the selfie screams self-obsession. It has become normal and acceptable – admirable – to post selfies; they have become ubiquitous on social media. The importance of exterior beauty and attractive profile has risen hugely because of this. But it’s just an image. A mirage. People become online celebrities on social media for nothing more than a selfie, a photoshopped image of themselves: fame is based on nothing more than fake beauty. The celebrity, Kim Kardashian, has 45.7 million followers on Instagram and every single one of her photos is a selfie. Becoming so notorious for this, she published a book of her selfies – Selfish. She is completely misusing her authority as a role model to promote egocentricity. (But, of course, we all know that she’s more than just a pretty face. Probably.) Social media has warped the values of society glorifying outward beauty, justifying selfishness.
Self-image online has become so important to teenagers today that some are developing eating disorders because of it. Obviously there are many other factors that cause eating disorders but the head of Childline said, “social media places huge pressures on our children” by presenting “an impossible view of what ‘beautiful’ is.” Social media is not only contributing to the increase in eating disorders by its glorification of outward beauty – it is romanticising them. There are accounts on Instagram dedicated to pictures of “thinspiration” with over 10 thousand followers. There are even personal accounts where girls post pictures of their bodies and judge themselves. People list their mental illnesses in their biographies as if they’re something to be proud of. Eating disorders proliferate online because of the almost admirable image that they portray. Having an account like this gains instant attention because of people’s curiosity but also there is an entire community of teenagers with eating disorders who urge and coerce one another to maintain this disease.
Even when social media goes beyond posting selfies or whatever comes to your mind, these “social” and “interactive” apps are in reality superficial and selfish. Apps like Tinder and Hot or Not are notorious examples of this. People are becoming accustomed to judging whether relationships are possible by what you see only – if they aren’t attractive, don’t bother! One in six teenagers use Tinder everyday. Those are the people who I am growing up with. What kind of values are my generation going to have when entire relationships are based on appearances and immediate attraction? “This game will show how popular you are,” the creators of Hot or Not claim. This encourages selfish motivations – personal gain; a gain that isn’t even real. Popularity isn’t defined by how many likes your photo gets. Ever heard of a thing called a “friend”? (I don’t mean a Facebook Friend.) Even when social media goes beyond posting whatever comes to your mind, these apps, supposedly based on relationships with others, are superficial and vain.
Selfishness is the seed and social media, the sun and water. On social media it’s becoming easier and more acceptable to be selfish. The cyberbully is selfish, striving for self-promotion; they attempt to achieve this by putting others down. The bully may think they will become popular if they make a “joke”, disregarding other people’s feelings in making it. Bullies are in the real world too, yes, but the element of anonymity has allowed social media to become a thriving place for cyberbullies – reports of cyberbullying have increased by over half since last year – who have the ability to target their victims online without the fear of being discovered. Since social media has such a large audience it’s the perfect arena to bully in an attempt to gain attention and endorse oneself by degrading others.
To conclude, social media is populated by idiots. Mindless Scrollers; Selfie-taking Narcissists; Self-absorbed Bullies. Social media gives the illusion of looking outward and staying connected. It may be a good tool to keep informed but it’s putting the world in a box and placing us in the centre of it all. If we don’t act now, these idiots will not just live online but amongst us. Social media is a drug consuming the lives of my generation and if we shrug this off or deny it, we’re giving it the power to further control us, warp our minds and twist our values. We’ll be living with a generation of selfish, vain and superficial – idiots.
Bibliography (date accessed: 15/09/15)