We live in a selfish world where Social Media has become the public square replacing the private confessional and the anonymous donation box. We click a LIKE button and we feel better. We promote our private good deeds in an open airing and our righteousness quintuples in the amount of retweets we earn. This is all wrong and misguided. We shouldn’t do good things just to be rewarded. We must not aspire to be the hero of our own invention just because that’s the immature nattering standard of the day.
Sunday morning, I groggily logged onto my social media accounts to discover a promotional Tweet — from a self-selling social media siren — telling us all, in a Tweetstorm, what a great guy he was for buying an abandoned Black child a chicken dinner.
At first impulse, you’d think to congratulate the guy for “doing the right thing” — but if you consider not just what he did, but what he’d then done by “sharing” his humanity online — you start to become uncomfortable with his self-aggrandizement and, by consequence, his good deed gets undone.
There was no lesson to be taught; no moral or social outrage to be made. The guy was dying to tell us, without saying it, what a jolly good fellow he was for caring, and then feeding, a hungry child.
Humblebraggadocio in its most commonplace order!
That post led me to counter-post this to my social media network.
I wasn’t more specific about the who and the what of the situation because none of that mattered and people always try to counter you, and kill your point in an overburden of meaningless details that don’t apply to the overall point being made: We’re into ourselves, not others, but we can’t directly confess that without sustaining certain blowback — and so we create “please clap” opportunities that make us feel better about ourselves.
Please look at me!
Please praise me!
I took my outrage online just to see what sort of other temptations might be lurking out there — for or against — my argument, and I was intrigued to have a thoughtful, if not somewhat religiously-seasoned, conversation on Facebook about what we’ve become as a resocialized society with no vested interested in revaluing the unself-effacing —
I was met on Twitter this morning with the long-winded story of a guy who bought dinner for a hungry kid. It went on and on — creating a context that the only suitable reply from a reader was, “Gee, what a great guy you are for doing what you should be doing!” — and when you realize that’s the endgame, and the whole reason for the post, it makes the moment selfish and public and not private and worthy.
— and what cannot be undone.
Yes, that’s the world we’ve created now — where sharing is not with each other, but only with the self. It’s a dangerous, new, disconnected, universe where only the individual matters.
As the day expanded, I began to think of our new mode of self-publicity and what it all might mean to the all of us on a grander scale in the future:
This is the crumbling of morality and the consequences of behavior. We saw unique evidence of this in the 2008 housing market crash where our government safeguards failed us and, in the end, nobody paid for the loss of working person money and pensions and investments. The little people pay for the failures, less the largesse above us suffer unfairly — what what trickles down is not money or prosperity or opportunity, but the imitation of the good deed done undone in bragging and the need for attention. It’s as if the intention no longer matters, only the self-advertised end result.
We have become what we’ve loathed: The lonesome loner stuck in a corner, whittling a tree branch into a sharpened stake, striking a match to a kerosene-soaked kerchief, grinding an axe on a millstone, ready for the glancing. If we cannot have the attention we feel we deserve, then we’ll find a way to hack it out of others with a knife or a gun or a bomb — or a social media meandering:
We live in a “Look at Me” economy now and I fear for the day when the social media effect lessens and decomposes. Then what? People tend to only do the right thing today for the attention they can receive from their social media followers later. When that attention is gone, will they continue to do the right thing without attribution and public worshipping? Or will they just remain private and selfish and inwardly-invested?
Where do we go as a society from here?
We’ll have 3D printing machines that create robots in our own likenesses so we may bet against ourselves and always win while pseudo pro-creating our gender-opposite doppelgangers for casual, inconsequential, maturbatory sex once we stumble back to our feet from the ground:
We’ll send love letters to ourselves from the future to make us immediately feel better now that our very own hope is on the way to surprise us.
We’ll be led by the eye to the next endless horizon that glorifies our name and brand and leavens us even more gently into that good grave — never alone again, but never quite the same together.