I try to live my life deliberately, though sometimes -- frequently, really -- I fail. My generation is one whose biggest strength is also one of our biggest drawbacks: the availability and pervasiveness of technology allows information to spread to countless people in seconds. We're the first group of humans to have come of age alongside the Internet, and our tandem maturing has informed both an entire cohort and one of the most powerful media in the world.
We were the kids who spent hours on Neopets, then AIM/MSN, then Myspace and then Facebook. The cruel hallways of our middle schools stretched into the online world, and the easy sharing of information took libel to another level. Now that we've turned into young adults, thankfully, that kind of petty bullying has subsided and been replaced with a more subtle series of jabs. While our online vices used to be more aggressive, they've been slid out of view in favour of a new breed of online chatter, which has a distinctly ideological bent. Everyone with Twitter and an Internet connection is free to shout their opinions on issues as volatile as race, sexism, violence, and politics.
While part of me is glad the ease of sharing has made some voices louder, ones who wouldn't be audible otherwise, trying to listen to these people amongst the din of rash opinions is difficult at the best of times and impossible at the worst. The world is now saturated with audible ideas where that kind of opining was limited to the media, the streets and dinner parties. But in recent years, I've watched the world turn from fairly quiet to impossibly loud, and have found myself wondering if the structure of our society can even support the weight of everyone holding a similar megaphone.
This is not to say that free speech isn't important: I'm glad and excited that technology has given voices to people who would otherwise be silent, myself included. I'm relieved that getting fired up on camera is no longer limited to Fox anchors or the Mad Money guy. I'm thrilled that people can change the world with a YouTube video or blog post, but this excitement is tinged with the worry that the system is starting to fail.
I've sat on the proverbial sidelines through the conflicts that have gone viral in the last few months: I've refrained from proclaiming #IamFerguson and #JeSuisCharlie because I don't think it's as simple as that. I feel for the victims of the tragedies, and agree that the acts of violence are wrong and should be stopped, but that doesn't mean I've proclaimed it on my social media accounts, nor does a simplistic, catchy hashtag make me understand the severity of the conflict or the suffering of those directly involved. It's a cute but, ultimately, hollow gesture.
Technology has given humankind the façade of togetherness when we're really as alienated as we were before, but just in a new way. We saw the beginnings of Slacktivism (one of my favorite terms) years ago, and it was brought to the forefront of our consciousness with the Kony 2012 campaign, which faded into obscurity as abruptly as it emerged.
I'm not arguing that people need to shut up and sit down when it comes to social media, nor am I saying that everyone on Facebook is ignorant and ideologically trigger happy: I'm just saying that some -- a lot, actually -- are tragically uninformed and loud. This is what really scares me. I'm glad there are so many opinions floating around, but I'm not glad about how many of them are misinformed and half-baked.
Lackadaisical ideology, to me, is like extremism's slacker cousin: not as violent or dangerous, obviously, but still a bad thing to have hanging around your living room. In a world so dominated and consumed by immediacy, I think everyone on social media -- and, larger scale, the whole world -- would benefit from a bit more deliberation and awareness.
It's easy to post without thinking: something happens, you let your emotions get ahead of you, and your fingers hit the keys. Then there's the instant gratification: those first few likes, favorites and reblogs are like shouts of "YES" and "I AGREE," justifying and validating your outpouring. Humans are emotional creatures, and emotions are undeniably stronger and more innate than our intellectual capacities. While I'm not advocating for suppression of emotions, I think it would improve our collective existence if more people lived with deliberation and processed their emotions themselves privately before externalizing them.
Sure, some people don't have this luxury but many do. Many of us who feel the uneasy compulsion to put fingers to keys or pen to paper in trying times -- myself included -- find comfort from the release, and we are often impulsive in our quest for the feeling. I'm writing this partly to urge others to live more deliberately, though it's also for myself. I want 2015 to be the start of a more aware, thoughtful and deliberate existence in a world that's increasingly dominated by blind rage and fight or flight impulses.