The Social Media Fetish

How many times a week, or even a day, do I need to see my friends' (real ones) kids, even though I've never met the tykes? Am I interested in my pals' anodyne life musings? Is it crucial that I know they're down the pub knocking back pints (where the company is seemingly so bad, they've resorted to electronic communication)?

How often do I need to know what someone's fleeting, mindless, thought is? Do I really need to see what you're about to devour for dinner, or even breakfast? Isn't it a bit early in the day?

You've just deplaned and you want the world to know? You think the online world will be endeared to you by spewing out famous quotes? Why do you need to share that your infant has "just" chucked up his lunch?

What is it with this unearthly overload?

These intrusions, for that's what they are, with non-information and banalities that people wouldn't even dare mention in an actual face-to-face -- "Can I just let you know that I've got a corn on my big toe? Er, no. -- are the reason I've logged off the social media site Facebook and will not be returning until such time the conversation wises up, which seemingly will be never. (The teens are logging off for good, too, in their millions, aghast at the prospect of being cyber-friended by their parents.)

Social media, including screamer site Twitter (which I remain on, as there are some thought-provoking goodies there, although it is roundly patrolled by trolls), gives people a platform on which they not only idealise themselves but their followers and friends, many of whom they don't know and have never met. Only it's worse on Facebook because in that Walled Garden of Electronic Eden, dissent will not be entertained; it will be met with instant unfriending, dispatching the miscreant to serpentine hell.

Let's all smile now, and pretend everything is fine.

On the soapbox of so-called social media, everyone's better, sexier, brainer -- an actual living avatar of themselves that exists only in the daydream realm of fantasy. The realities of life are far too mundane to allow reality a peek in, on Facebook at least. That's why it's primarily fake and a fetish for users and followers and friends.

As are the devices that carry these services. Just look at them as they slavishly obey their smartphones more than their spouses, technologically entranced and oblivious to real life outside the rectangular screens that showcase highly idealised lives that no one can achieve. Trapped: trapped in a never-ending rollercoaster ride of shrill tweets and pretentious posts that end up making you as sick as if you'd been on the stomach-churning mechanical contraption all along.

It's no wonder people are feeling disenchanted, disillusioned, disconnected by it all: far from being social, this kind of "new media" has pulled the plug on the very personal interactions that humans as social animals need to thrive and survive.

Social media is the true oxymoron of our time, the ultimate fallacy of our supposedly interconnected age: How can anyone be social -- really engaging with fellow human beings, and all of the joy and satisfaction that entails -- while concealed behind a glass screen powered by whirring electronics, oceans of fibre optics and orbiting satellites? All the while putting their very best face forward when everyone knows people are fallible and that it's those intrinsic aspects that make them interesting.

Yes, supporters bray, I like it for my distant family and faraway friends, and in that they're somewhat right: social media does enable contact, but do they enhance relationships, these pert posts? Skype does a far better job, and there isn't a "social" anywhere near the communications site.

Remove the faux Facebook must-likeability and you get the worst of social media, as seen on Twitter: rants and raves and extreme hostility that lands some in court and paying hefty slander files, or in jail.

It's the worst of both worlds.

Years from now we will look back at this apparent "phenomenon" and laugh at the juvenile idiocy of it, our pretense at showcasing the best of us when we were never even being true to ourselves at all, but duped by the false oasis of a promised land that's not even a land but a created dystopia of wires and glass and whizzing electrons designed only to profit those who create them -- and worse: with users as product.

It's extreme exploitation, on a global scale, tapping into humanity's fundamental weaknesses, even making a corporate and government fetish out of ourselves and our desires. Oh yes, the feverish fetish works both ways. Give them garish games (Angry Birds and others) and watch us swipe their personal data, government spy agencies conspire.

How very gullible people have become, lured by shiny objects containing the stuff of ephemera to keep us momentarily distracted, when we should have been paying attention to the real world all along.

Have we even grown up?