Between the years of 1913 and 1927 French author Marcel Proust published his volume of seven novels entitled ‘In Search of Lost Time,’ a massive collection of literary marvel detailing the theme of involuntary memory, the unconscious effort of recollecting an event in the past as the result of an everyday cue.
Today, on Facebook, I read a status in my newsfeed that went as follows: ‘gotta chill cause they can’t wait to make a meme about you’, insert (sic) wherever you want there. It is in my opinion that the future of social media holds a very grim place for people if we don’t take a step back and realize that we are becoming dumbed-down extensions of our smartphones: I am, you are, and you better believe your 13-year old kid is.
Social media operates in a way that eliminates the potential of deeper thinking or learning. Users are bombarded with byte-sized snippets of information: statuses from Facebook friends, Twitter updates from pointless celebrities, and even when you find yourself navigating your page to a news source you are soon attacked with links to take you away from the article you are reading.
Perhaps these links are more entertaining, but before you can even grasp the idea of the article you were reading you’ve found yourself re-locating to an article about why Caitlyn Jenner looks hotter than before she was a woman or something.
The ease of accessibility to random, entertaining snippets of information is enough to create instant-gratification for social media users of 2015. In return, we are more and more being drawn away from reading a work of great literature, seeing a play, or even watching a good film. When I’m lying around, bored and idle, I don’t attempt to cure that boredom by reading one of the multitudes of books I’ve bought but never bothered putting myself through the effort of reading.
Instead I’ll scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, read over mindless statuses I read just ten minutes prior, watch short videos about footballers burning other players on the pitch, watch stupid vines, the list goes on. And now, even reading stupid statuses on Facebook is becoming redundant – people just want to view augmented pictures of girls on a beach in Thailand with a quick caption on Instagram to get their fix of “entertainment”.
People said the TV was mindless entertainment; at least when I was a kid I had to think about why ‘The Simpsons’ were racist towards Australia, only to watch the episode again as an adult to understand it was just great satire. I don’t have to do much thinking when watching a Snapchat video of a guy sculling a concoction of beer, wine and vodka from a Kings Cup.
When I wake up in the morning I don’t buy a newspaper or even watch the morning news on television to become informed, I quickly glance at the homepages of several major news outlets and perhaps read one article from each, if the site will allow me to do so without paying for a subscription.
So what can we do to curb this degradation of culture? To help us retain our ability as humans to profoundly think and learn? We have to take a step back, put the phone away for a while, dedicate time to reading; you can get back into it, or else we could be doomed to a society of superficiality.