The Problems with Social Media Nowadays


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I admit. I am guilty of all these charges. In fact, my attention span becomes so short that it took me almost a week to complete this post. Reason: Being interrupted constantly by so many things on hand.

Is that a valid reason, I ponder often? As an entrepreneur and academic, I am all for multi-disciplinary learning and often sing praises for students who could seemingly juggle many things at one go. In today’s highly complex world, employers are also seeking graduates who show multiple involvements and interests in several areas like sports, arts, literature, community, politics and the list goes on. I am not surprised many early achievers see themselves as movers and shakers ahead of their peers just because of their ability to multi-task and achieve great results in their pursuits.

So what’s my point, you might wonder? I think the World has gone social and is in a better place; we, however, are not.

Herd Mentality

Don’t get me wrong. We all need references in our lives. In fact, I believe one of the ways to really learn is to model after someone who is successful; or learn from the mistakes made by others. My contention here is the prevalent herd mentality that is entrenched in our daily routine. Alright, social media guides our actions and behaviours. However, due to the high dependency we have on these platforms, a lot of our opinions, thoughts and behaviours are shaped and influenced by what we see online. We tend to normalise this behaviour and disregard critical thinking in other aspects of our lives. A case in point; We are seeing a lot more influencers posting information and sharing news about a new product or service. If there is a negative publicity generated about a brand by an influencer; a stigma is attached immediately until the brand recovers itself through constant public relations exercises or word of mouth by customers.  How many of us really bother to investigate the truth of each matter?

I want Fame

We are all striving for numbers. In fact one of the reasons why famous celebrities could get popular in the past was due to the immense reach generated through their works from movies, dramas or endorsements. It is all about reaching the minds of people and having a substantial mindshare. Fast forward to today’s generation, we see struggling old-time personalities trying to keep themselves current. All of a sudden, a sense of irrelevance kicks in. Fame hungry and dynamic Youtubers and Influencers begin to carve a niche for themselves by creating ‘programmes’ or productions that are real-time, social and less scripted. In the online world,  fame could be found instantaneously without having to go through the traditional route of being cast in popular films and dramas. Fair enough, a lot of celebrities are very popular on social media platforms, but increasingly, the newcomers find themselves thrown into the entertainment realms due to the strong online following they have.

5 Minutes of Fame make-believe 

My point is that the concept and desire towards fame have slowly infiltrated into our common concept and minds. Everyone wants to be known. Everyone wants to be seen as important and well, regarded.  Scan around your social media sites and you’ll see your friends posting pictures or videos of a media preview; food pictures & videos and even travelogues created all for the sake of getting it trended. ‘PPAP’, aka Pen Pineapple Apple Pen, a viral online video has stirred many renditions submitted by ordinary folks all in the name of joining the bandwagon and getting noticed through the process.

What’s the psychology behind? It’s definitely random fun and just for laughs. More strategically, it throws oneself into the public eye to be observed, discussed, gossiped or talked about. Remember, when you are in the centre of attention, you penetrate into the mindshare of people. Slowly and surely….You get more popular. Or should I say, you get your five minutes of fame.

Who sets the agenda? 

Let’s talk about the seemingly old modes of production of content. Journalists go through the manufacturing of news process and news are created through a careful selection and editing of news. Producers of dramas and films spent tons of hours working on issues relating to scripts, casting, location, props, production and the end products are marketed and aired on tv and cable channels. It has been a long debate in the media fraternity regarding the notions of agenda setting and propaganda. The media sets the agenda for people to think and react to it. With the advent of social media, new modes of content productions have evolved from citizen journalism, youtube productions, one liners to memes that could easily sum up the public opinion in the most creative manner.

We are exposed to tons and tons of information everyday through our Facebook feeds, Twitter timeline, Bigo Live, Instagram updates etc, often times with no agenda in these forms of communications.

Are we all ready and trained to decipher what’s real and whats not on social media? Can we trust all sources that are invading our social spaces?

Wants, Wants and more Wants 

I once had a friend who said ‘Ignorance is bliss’. He said ‘the more we know, the more unhappy  we become. In life, it is better to know less, so we don’t expect anything in our lives’.  How true!

Do you subscribe to this notion?

This comment , when applies to the concept of ‘needs and wants’, suggest that our wants are triggered because we are informed about the alternatives and many options we have. Very often, a sense of emptiness kicks in when we see friends’ posts on their latest travel vacation, extravagant purchases, fine dining, celebrations, promotion, anniversaries, new business openings etc. I am not suggesting that social media causes unrealistic wants; rather it exposes us to the concept that we are always inadequate in our material possessions. Obviously old forms of media like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and outdoor billboards have long been guilty. Social Media has definitely makes it more apparent as we are tuned to our platforms on a 24/7 basis.

I wonder whether seeing posts of material possessions and achievements from peers makes us more motivated to achieve even more or on the contrary, depressed further from the inadequacies in our lives. What do you think?

Who is receiving? 

Communication starts with the sender encoding a message through a channel with the receiver decoding based on his or her perceptions and stereotypes. In a traditional way of communicating, the sender has a receiver in mind. In most circumstances, you tailor your messages to your intended recipient based on how you think the person might perceive or receive. In the realm of social media, the nature of the platforms doesn’t allow customised or personalised messages. Much of what we post go to a diverse group of people who have followed us, or ‘friended’ us via Facebook based on varying reasons in the past. A lot of our acquaintances receive our messages on a day to day basis without getting any true meanings or understanding. From an effectiveness standpoint, I question how much of these daily status updates and video posts actually get received fully from the recipients. If everyone is posting and no one is actually receiving, isn’t it a very very sad world? Again, I could be wrong.

Negativity begets negativity

You scroll your Facebook feeds and see updates from your friends filled with negativity.  Friend A talks about the unhappiness at work and the ill treatment received from his boss. Friend B laments about a bad driver who has cut into his lane while driving. Friend C posts a picture about a stranger whom she quarrelled in the bus.  Friend D shares about someone who just passed on.

Familiar? Bad vibes are happening everywhere. By amplifying these vibes, are we propagating and reinforcing that this world is, in indeed, sad?

We’ve been told to surround ourselves with positive and happy friends. Who wants to be reminded often on the sad truths and negativity in this world? Yes, we know the world is a harsh one. Aren’t we all in this journey of searching for happiness in our lives?  I worry about the long-term effects it has on the psyche of people as we are bombarded by these messages constantly.  Believe me, time will tell.

We feed Advertising?

In traditional mode of advertising, empowered and smart consumers have recognised the commercial intention of businesses and have discredit the effects long ago. We simply switch channel when it’s commercial break time. We selectively listen to the radio news and omit the radio jingles heard over news radio 938. When we are commuting on MRT, we simply ignore the billboards and get on with our lives.

This selective perception is however a lot more difficult on social media. How many times  have you seen sponsored ads popping up on our Facebook news feed. Even instagram forces you to check on a sponsored ad after 5-10 seconds of scrolling your friends updates. Can we avoid these messages? The answer is NO. Marketers are already trained to enter into the realms of consumers based on their media habits. Where there are people congregating, there will be advertising and commercial interests.

Advertising is here to stay. If you want to stay in the social media realms, you need to live with it.

Sex: Powerful tool 

We know “SEX SELLS’. And this notion is amplified on social media. All too often people with great bodies who are willing to bare get far more attention from the ordinary folks. ‘If you have what it takes, flaunt it’, I fully agree. I am not jealous or anything. I know I don’t have a great bod! LOL What I am against is the wrong subscription amongst the younger generation that if you bare, you will get attention.  I think from a marketing standpoint, this notion is true. However I don’t think this is a good mindset to have in the society. I just don’t think trivialising sex is the way to go.

Instant Gratification 

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Basically, it’s when you want it; and you want it now.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting or needing things, experiences, or products in a timely manner. However, It’s important to balance our desires with a realistic sense of timing and patience.

We gain instant feedback from our devices, because we’re constantly plugged in and turned on. Social media gives us instant ability to upload videos, photos and status updates. We receive instant feedback from our social followers. We respond in near real time to emails and tweets. We have the ability to make things happen without having to wait.

Because our devices are ubiquitous, our connectedness is constant. There’s very little patience required.

We even expect business growth — a phenomenon long considered to be gradual — to happen overnight. Like the viral explosion of a YouTube video, we want to hack business growth for viral expansion. The pursuit is admirable, even if the results aren’t always what we desire.

Therein lies the problem, the belief that social media can fuel businesses quickly and success is guaranteed. We fail to think of the rigour and hard work involved in making things work. We think social media is the magical answer to entrepreneurship and success. We think that hiring influencers to blog about our products or services will ensure streams of customers coming to our stores. We think that viral videos are the way to go. We think digital marketing is the solution to all business evils. Bullshit.

 

Well, I need to qualify that I am a proponent of social media. I believe the media is always neutral and outcomes are determined by the users themselves. With every con you see from social media, there are always pros that come along. In fact, I could easily write another article about the growing advantages of social media. I am no saint and I am not here to play God. I just want to share my thoughts about the growing trends and hopefully we can sit back, and reflect on this digital giant, amidst our fast moving society.

Thank you and adios.

Dennis Toh

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