Social Media is a Poor Substitute for True Connection

There was a time when people got their news from a dude standing in the middle of town and shouting. The town crier, right? Now, with a few twiddles of your thumb, you’ve got access to literally thousands (maybe millions...) of town criers. Hell, I guess we’ve all sort of become the town crier. That’s what social media really is. A chance for all of us to be the town crier. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media lately. How harmful it is for us. How addicted we are to it. The general consensus is that we’re addicted to social media because we get a dopamine hit from receiving likes. It’s a self-centered, egocentric, almost sociopathic thing. But I kind of think it’s something a little different... 

Yeah, sure, everybody likes to get likes and shares and retweets and whatever else. But the true root of all things social media is our longing for connection, our innate desire for a sense of community. Humans are pack animals. We do best in groups, tribes, communities. Yet the last several hundred years of innovation have driven us to become more and more (and more and more and more) isolated. We have no sense of community. One of the most important aspects of life as a human being, completely stripped away. Social media is the substitute for that. A poor substitute. But a substitute nonetheless. 

It’s the same concept as treating depression with anti-depressants. They don’t cure your depression, they just make you feel less depressed as long as you’re using them. Because they take away your ability to feel. Yet, used properly, they can help you to conquer your depression and find a way out. 

Social media doesn’t give you a sense of community, it just makes you feel less alone while you’re using it. Because it temporarily alleviates the feeling of loneliness. But the more and more you use social media, the more isolated you become. However, used properly, it can help you to conquer your loneliness and make actual connections with an actual community. 

See the connection?  

I think I sort of lost the essence of what I was trying to say in there. But the point is, it makes perfect sense that we’re all addicted to social media, that we’ve all got such unhealthy relationships with social media. Because, just like any other object of addiction or abuse, it’s a substitute for something essential that is massively lacking in our lives. A surrogate for interaction and connectedness.  

jake chrismanComment