There is an old saying from Marshall McLuhan that says “we shape our tools and then our tools shape us”. This is something that we have seen so many times with social media. There are many different ways that “our tools” have shaped us. I want to focus on just how much we use social media and technology for everything and specifically to replace personal connections. No matter how many times Facebook tries or say they try to make Facebook about connection it will always be a tool that takes us away from reality.
In Cody Fry’s song Pictures of Mountains he illustrates very well the almost ironic nature of how we use technology and how we have become so immersed in it that we ignore some things that are right in front of us. Some lines from his song that illustrate this go as follows.
"I sit in my car outside restaurants and bars Reading about what’s inside I look up opinions about news and religion So I don’t have to use my own mind I should call my friends But I read their posts instead People are messy and life can get heavy It’s easier to keep it online Like checking the weather to see if it’s better Instead of just going outside Pretend I’m unaware But the truth is that I’m scared"
Through these lyrics we see that some of the things we use technology for are very counterintuitive. So why do we do them?
In “Antisocial Media” by Siva Vaidyhanathan he explains for us how Facebook is actually designed to pull us in and keep us there. Facebook wants to take us away from the people and things around us. Vaidyhanathan says:
“Like casinos, slot machines, and potato chips, Facebook is designed to
keep you immersed, to disorient you just enough so you lose track of the
duration and depth of your immersion in the experience, and to reward you
just enough that you often return, even when you have more edifying, re-
warding, or pleasurable options for your time and effort within your reach.
This is not an accident.”Vaidyhanathan, Siva “Antisocial Media”
Even though we think we are being more social by using “social media”, the truth is that, like Cody Fry is saying, we just use social media as an excuse more than anything. An excuse to not talk to people, to not have to think for ourselves and ultimately to be lazy. And Facebook makes that really easy with what Vaidyhanathan calls Facebook’s “stickiness”. They don’t want us to leave so we get stuck in this fake world that Cody Fry is talking about. One that is just not the same as the real world.
The chorus of Cody Fry’s song Pictures of Mountains goes like this:
"It’s almost as if I have been everywhere Almost tasted the food, almost breathed in the air But nobody’s heart ever pounded From that feeling of being surrounded by pictures of mountains"
Social media gives us a sense of being with our friends or being in different parts of the world. But it’s not the same. Pictures and videos on social media can only bring us so close. Just like Vaidyhanathan reminded us, “you have more edifying, re-warding, or pleasurable options for your time and effort within your reach”.
Cody Fry ends the song by saying this
"I thought that I knew what a mountain was like ’Til I stood in the valley and looked up at the sky And I felt my heart beating faster That feeling I’d been chasing after Is something that no one can capture In pictures of mountains"
As much as we think our phones and social media can replace the world around us, they can’t. So we need to stop settling for pictures of mountains.
Cover Photo of Cody Fry from https://codyfry.com/picsofmtns-links