Social media has created some really strange, and probably very damaging new human habits. One cannot even go through what were once simple and enjoyable parts of a day without being distracted, or seeing other people distracted. In this article I am going to look at some of these new habits and look at them in the light of personal safety and how these habits are a detriment to being as safe as we can.
One of the saddest moments I have had recently was on a day when I was working as a monitor in the cafeteria of the school where I teach. A parent was there to have lunch with her kid. While I do not know the parent, I have had a chance to know the kid a little bit, enough to know the child is a bit of a challenge in the classroom. The parent came to the school, ostensibly to have lunch with the child, but spent the entire lunch staring at her phone, while the kid talked on and on to a person who was not responding in any way.
This is by no means an isolated occurrence. Take your eyes off of your phone the next time you are driving in traffic. You will find yourself surrounded with people who are seemingly staring in dazed wonder at their own crotch, but are in fact staring at their phone. They miss green lights and other traffic signals, they have near miss collisions, and have even struck and killed pedestrians because of this unhealthy fascination with the smartphone.
The next time you eat in a sit-down restaurant, look around at the people who no longer speak to one another. Married couples ignore each other in favor of checking how many likes they have received for checking in at that restaurant. Children almost seem completely ignored.
What could be so fascinating?
Well, it is social media and the need to be heard/validated/accepted.
Speaking as a self-defense coach and an armchair philosopher, I can only say this is really pathetic behavior. The rampant narcissism is truly mind boggling.
In a very short period of time, people have become obsessed with social media attention. They make comments on subjects about which they know little, or nothing, in order to get the attention of a like/+1/favorite.
Granted, I am an old fogey who was born before there was an internet, or even a computer with image interface. But even from this sad state, I can still see absurd behavior.
Take the sharing of pictures of dinner.
I want people to know what I am eating, because this makes me special. Well, I think it makes me special, and in a way, isn’t that special? Not really.
Do people even watch concerts with their own eyes anymore?
Judging by social media, I need to say they do not. They watch through the tiny screen of their phone. Even the best smartphones will not video a concert in anything that closely resembles quality. But they are more interested in the ability to share with people the fact that they are there than with the actual experience of being there.
And the newsfeed on social media is so overfull with constant plays on emotion that people sometimes reach the point of being unable to feel outraged, just from outrage-fatigue.
Can you imagine being mad for so long that you are too tired to be mad again?
Can you imagine, or perhaps you have recently viewed an event in your life with an eye, not on the experience itself, but rather, on the social media update and subsequent likes you would receive?
You are not alone.
Many people have developed the habit of thinking themselves a celebrity, and view every detail in the light of how it will be received on social media.
If you ever begin to feel yourself to be a celebrity, please remember that the social status of regular society still applies even in the digital realm. If you are a regular person, you will receive likes. If you are someone of some note, you will be able to have the status of a verified account, allowing the serfs to know it is the real you. The extra special, or recently deceased extra special people get the reserved ability to be on the trending lists. That is when you know you have finally made it. You have arrived. Or died.
What? you have a hundred likes? So what. I have a blue verified checkmark beside my name on my twitter account.
Yes, but are you trending?
But where does all of this tie in to personal safety?
It actually ties in on many levels.
For a start, when you feel the need to check-in every time you go anywhere, people can see this an know that you are not home. This is a safety risk and the habit really should be addressed.
And looking in to find out how many likes you have is a really silly habit. It distracts you from important tasks like driving or communicating with family.
Taking things up a notch, the agitated emotional state that social media keeps people in is not healthy, and can lead to some really poor decisions.
But on top of all of this, I will add that the self-centered behavior, wherein one seems to find acceptance, validation and actualization in the number of likes one receives for a social media post, is really unhealthy. Your validations should come from within.
In extreme cases, people have rioted, looted, killed and been killed due to asinine behavior inspired by social media rants.
An entire section of Texas Hold’em Self Defense was devoted to the way people have developed digital identities and feel secure in acting out in aggression even when they have no ability to back up their aggressive posturing.
We can do better. I do not hold out much hope that we will do better, but at least the possibility is there.
I think it all boils down to priorities.
What is a like or a retweet anyway? Someone is sharing your words. But is it really something that is supposed to distract you from here and now? And should you really jeopardize your safety over it, or anything else in social media at all?
I say no. But I’m old, and tired. And I don’t take selfies. And I’m going to go to bed now.