The era of social approval

“The era of social approval” is written by Sonal Jayawickrama. He is a Guest contributor for Socialmedia.lk

On the 26th of June 2015, the United States of America created history by providing the legal right for same-sex couples to get married. It was not this important piece of information that piqued my interest though, rather it was the reaction that I saw from individuals through almost all social networking websites. However it was not the thousands of statuses, rainbow themed profile pictures or the memes that attracted my attention, rather it was simply the response that the online community showed that surprised me.

facebook-rainbow-profile-pictures

If you were to do a Google search on “modern human”, or even look it up in the dictionary, every definition omits one very important characteristic that humans have developed since the beginning of the eon of technology and social networking. Two hundred thousand years ago, humans had some very basic needs; food, water and shelter. As long as the primitive human could stay alive and mate to ensure the continuation of the species, they were more than content.

However, like every living organism, humans evolved. With evolution comes a change in desires. In the early and mid-1800s, when the industrial revolution was taking place, humans were focused on developing tools and machinery to make production of goods and services more effective. Humans wanted to be more effective, to produce more and to earn more. These were the needs of the mid-1800 and early 1900 human.

Then came the age of electricity. People wanted televisions, refrigerators, microwaves, computers, to name a few. I am not saying, that microwaves became the only need that humans had, however as humans evolved and as development happened, shelter and food became a given for a majority of the population. Thus there was a change in the hierarchy of needs, as the prominence of food and shelter was pushed back, and other ‘needs’ such as cars and electric items became more significant. Then, at the turn of the century, we saw the dawn of the era of the Internet, and once again, a different ‘need’ took prime position in the hierarchy of needs.

With the increased usage and attractiveness of the internet, social networking sites have dominated the last decade or so. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, to name a few have conquered the social networking scene. However, these social networking sites have completely changed the characteristics and needs of the modern human being.

How many times have you posted a picture of the food that you eat on Instagram? How many times have you posted statuses on Facebook telling the whole world that you are having a blast with your friends, or that that you are so depressed with exams you wish you could kill yourself? How many Snapchats  you must have sent whenever you visit a remarkable place or when you are trying some form of bizarre cuisine? In today’s world, we are more concerned about letting the world know what we are doing, rather than actually living in the moment and truly absorbing the experience of whatever it is we may be doing. It this very factor that has changed the way we live.

There were some very powerful pictures I recently saw on the internet, and there was one particular cartoon that is forever burnt into my mind. A stranded wanderer with no food and water is at a fork in his way. The sign to one side reads “free water”, and the other sign reads “free Wi-Fi”. Just the fact that the traveler was even considering what road he should take shows the power that Wi-Fi, and in turn the internet has over us. If we all put ourselves in the wanderers shoes, the proportion of us that possibly feel that posting a picture of our explorations on Instagram or on Snapchat is almost as important as a drink of water would be disgracefully high. But why? Why have we let ourselves become slaves of the internet? Why do we text friends miles away, instead of having a face to face conversation with a friend sitting next to us?

Let’s go back to the day when same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. There was an absolute eruption of opinions from people from across all the social networking sites. People who had been inactive on these websites abruptly posted statuses that were pages long. I am not a psychologist, and I don’t claim to understand human psychology. But, I feel that this modern trend of giving into social networking sites has been due to a change in the needs of the modern human.

I posted a status about the legalizing of same-sex marriages, almost all my friends did. Some of them were true and passionate human rights activists, individuals who were truly concerned about such topics. But some of them were people who hardly gave two cents about another human being, forget same-sex couples. Everyone is entitled to their thoughts, but my problem is with the way some people back their opinions and the reason for stating their opinions. One of the most popular arguments against same-sex marriage was religion. I am not here to start a debate on religion. My problem is with the “kind” of people that used their own religion to back their opinions. These were people, who barely even recognized their own religion.

These were people who had never touched the Bible, the Quran, or other holy scriptures. These were people who got “wasted” day in day out because it was the fashionable thing to do. These were individuals who didn’t follow a single letter of their own religion. However, as soon as people start conversing about same-sex marriages, BAM. Everyone comes out with their Facebook statuses about how it’s immoral because their religion says so. Do you not perceive the irony here? So what is going on? Are we really so desperate to use our own religion to gain a few likes on Facebook?

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in the era of approval. What social networking sites have done, is they have made humans crave the approval of other human beings. We post pictures and statuses on Facebook expecting hundreds of likes, from “friends”, some of whom we have never even had a conversation with. Every social networking site, may it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they all promote this concept of “Likes”. We post on these sites, expecting a positive response from others, and thus we seek their approval. That’s exactly what happened when the outburst of opinions on the legalizing of same-sex marriage happened.

People weren’t really concerned about this sudden change in legislature. I know I was not. Same sex couple do not affect me, they do not hinder my personal growth, they do not pose a threat to me, and neither do they offer me any exceptional benefits. If they have no bearing on my life what so ever, why would I be affected if same sex couple are allowed to get married? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that these people are allowed to do what they want, but it had no special impact on my life.

Who am I to say, that it’s wrong if two men were to kiss in public, or that it is right for two women to get married? But, what we saw here was the ripple effect. As soon as people began to talk about same sex marriage, everyone wanted to hop aboard the wagon, simply because it was the new “hot” thing on social networking websites. Think about it, if you were never really that passionate about human rights, and if you posted a status, wasn’t it simply because all your friends did so? Wasn’t it simply because you wanted everyone to know that you too knew what everyone was talking about?  Wasn’t it simply because you wanted some attention and because you wanted likes on your status?

The hierarchy of human needs has changed once again since the advent of the internet. We still need food and shelter, but they have been pushed far down the hierarchy of needs. As we live in the era of approval, and as we crave “likes”, it has become clear, that the need of the modern human is now social approval. No longer do we do something original or completely out of the box, we now try to live according to the boundaries drawn by society. We do things, that we feel will be met with approval by our peers.

Human-Evolution

We are going in the wrong direction. If everyone does things that others do, where will we find innovation? Where will we find growth as individuals? Will this new craze for social approval slow or completely halt human evolution? In a few centuries, will every human being have identical personalities as every one of us craves to do what the other likes? I am starting to think, that what my mother said a couple of years ago might be true. She would see me texting on my phone and say, “all you and your friends do is text all day, doing the same thing over and over again, you all would soon become robots”. Would we really lose our touch of humanity and become nothing but monotonous creatures?

 

Guest Contributor: Sonal Jayawickrama

I am a third-year university student studying at the Asia Pacific University in Malaysia. I am majoring in Business management and marketing while minoring in Finance. However, since a very young age I have had a keen interest for social issues, politics, current affairs and law. An 8 year career in Model United Nations has enabled me to identify the vast amount of perspectives from people of different walks of life, and thus I am able to provide a fresh perspective on issues we all know exist, but refuse to seriously discuss and find solutions to. |

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