Please Stop Saying that Social Media Has Ruined X
Posted on October 1, 2013 by Gabriella Rackoff
Yes, we know. Social media has ruined school . It has ruined workplaces and it has ruined the experience of dining out . Before social media, television and video games were ruining young minds. In 1450 Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized Europe and not everyone was happy about it.
The Globe and Mail recently published this essay claiming that social media has changed the experience of backpacking through Europe from “a struggle full of discovery and disappointment and chance connections” to something that has been “packaged and prettified [where] the relationship between the place and the traveler is almost purely transactional.”
Forgetting for the moment that Europe was not put there for North Americans to backpack through, complaining that social media has made things easier and more convenient is essentially self-centred. It means you have decided on an ideal level of comfort and convenience, probably based on the environment in which you came of age. Some claim that the internet has led us to undervalue face-to-face connections, but look what it has done for people who don’t have that option.
Back in March I wrote a post about a book called The Authenticity Hoax. The author details the tendency for people who are surrounded by modern conveniences to idealize simpler times , usually a period that they feel is more authentic but which still allows them to live comfortably. For the author of the aforementioned Globe and Mail piece, that might mean travelling around Europe before social media and the internet but after the advent of commercial air travel. Even the author admits that platforms like Couchsurfing and Airbnb have helped travellers connect in person and discover cities more like locals.
The problem with arguments like this in the context of the internet is that the internet is not something you can choose not to take part in. Even if you never go online, it’s still a force that is shaping the world. Plus, I would bet that most people who claim the internet, social media or smartphones have destroyed this, that, or the other institution do go online when it suits them.
If looking up an address or getting in touch with an old friend has become easier, you can’t expect it to stop there. Very soon there will be a huge segment of the population with no memories of life without social media. It will stop being this fascinating new thing for us to analyze and praise or criticize as we choose. As social media continues its inevitable trajectory towards ubiquity, like with the printing press, the most productive thing we can do is maximize its positive impact on the world instead of bickering about whether we like it or not.
Gabriella is the Creative Director at 88 Creative. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellainga .