I’ve figured out how social media works. It goes something like this. You have just eaten a juicy mango, and naturally, like all who eat juicy mangoes, you want to share the experience with the world.
So you tweet: "I’ve just eaten a mango and it is so juicy. Makes me happy to be alive."
Let’s look at five reactions to this.
The first response is: "What makes you so special? Who do you think you are? What childhood traumas are you trying to forget?"
The second one goes: "I hate you, you apple-denier. Why the mango when apples are so much juicier and easier to chomp down on?"
And the third: "Apologise for your discriminatory tweet you mangowalla. The implication that you need to be alive to be happy discriminates against the dead."
The fourth: "Do you know there are children in Siberia who have never seen an apple? Are you proud of yourself now."
And finally, the fifth: "I hate Stephen King. Can you recommend another writer?"
The question that asks itself is, why do people bother to a) get on social media and b) to respond to other social media freaks? Loneliness, the anonymity of the unsigned message, the desire to insult people because your boss shouted at you, the ego, the lack of ego, and even the opportunity to use cuss words in public have all been underlined by psychologists as reasons for both a) and b).
Social media has made the word "oversharing" popular both as a concept and a psychological problem. In the example quoted above, why should the world care if I ate a juicy mango or not? But if you imagine nobody gives a hoot, you only have to read the responses. People give a hoot, and the hoots inspire other hoots, and before you know it, the government has imposed a mango tax, made juicy mangoes illegal and writing about them a criminal offence.
Oversharing begets oversharing. My mango-eating gets my neighbour thinking, "Why should only he write about eating mangoes? I will write about cleaning my shoes." And so it goes. Our daily lives are filled with packets of useless information delivered at a pace and with a lack of passion that only the truly apathetic can achieve. My mango interests you only in so much as it sets you off on your shoe.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If you don’t tell us about mango eating, do you exist at all? As the French philosopher Descartes nearly said, I tweet, therefore I am. Social media validates existence; after all, as Hollywood told us years ago, in space no one can hear you scream.
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