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Thoughts on social media

March 28, 2021

I.

Instagram creates the illusion of knowing people. We become aware of all the minute details about someone’s life, without knowing them as a person. It gives us too much details about people that we don’t know personally.

Although Instagram reveals what we eat, where we go to, and who we hang out with, it can’t compete with a personal blog where we reveal something much more intimate: what we think.

This is the paradox of Instagram: while we share more details than with blogs, we reveal less. Or, as Francois Mauriac famously said in 1948: “If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he Instagrams, but what he blogs.”

If I had given you my Instagram (before I deleted it), you would learn less about me than you know now by reading my blog.

By writing, I share how I think, which is like getting naked in public.

II.

In the past, we have checked on each other much more often. Chat was much more popular (remember MSN or ICQ?). Since the advent of social media feeds, we no longer have to do that. We see where anyone is going, what they are eating, and who they are hanging with. The simple “What’s up?” has almost gone extinct.

What have we lost with this transition? I think the main problem is that we no longer show that we care. Checking on someone on social media requires much less effort than sending someone a message. A message is like proof of work that shows that we care.

Unlike a scroll action on social media. When we send a message to someone, we let them know that we care about them specifically. When we check the social media feeds, we don’t show that kind of care towards anyone.

Scrolling doesn’t show interest in anyone specifically.

III.

When we compare Twitter to Instagram, one thing becomes clear. The majority of Instagram is shallow, while Twitter is not.

Why is the apex user of Instagram a shallow influencer, while the apex user of Twitter is a thought leader whose tweets resemble reading fortune cookies?

Is Instagram’s focus on showing pictures in portrait mode causing their users to become more shallow? Is it causing people to take more selfies and become more narcissistic?

But isn’t Twitter also narcissistic? Is the focus on sharing thoughts preventing users of Twitter from becoming narcissistic? I don’t think so since Twitter encourages sharing your thoughts into the ether and thus builds an echo chamber around you.

With Twitter, we become blind to alternative opinions and thoughts that are not aligned with our own. This leads to the polarization that is so prevalent today.

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