How a Near Miss Showed me the Lack of Connectivity and Humanity on Social Media

A few weeks ago (last year) on a random Friday, I randomly decided I wanted cake and I headed to the best bakery in town to satisfy that craving, because when do you ever need a reason for cake? On my way back, I was in a near miss. There is no reason to relitigate what happened plus all you need to know is my cake and I walked away uninjured. That evening, I got on Instagram and I posted my cake, made a joke about never needing a reason for cake, talked about the near miss, and mentioned that I was very grateful to God to be alive. I didn’t think much about it.

The next morning, two of my friends messaged me to ask if I was okay and thanked God for and with me. That was when it dawned on me that more than 100 people viewed that Story, saw what I posted, and no one said anything. NOTHING. People just continued scrolling. Maybe if my friends hadn’t said anything, maybe I would have thought that was normal. But their saying something, asking about my welfare, and showing concern opened my eyes to the indifference and lack of connectivity on social media.

I realized the how crazy social media can get. People just go about not caring, just scrolling past, and living such insular lives. God forbid, but if I died, people would have come out of the woodwork with trite messages. There would have been lots of “Oh MY GOD!”, “I am so sad, so devastated”, “I can’t believe this”, “She was so nice,” and the worst of the niceties after death: “Please remember to tell people how you feel about them. This is a reminder to always check on people” and other such BS.  To be clear, it’s not that these words are inappropriate or wrong, it’s that they are usually empty, hollow words. 

And I’m guilty of this too. I’m guilty of spending time consuming the nonsense people post on social media but not taking the time to be human enough. I’m guilty of participating in social media’s unraveling of our humanity. Yet being on the other side of it and actually experiencing it opened my eyes in a way I didn’t expect. It showed me the indifference, the lack of humanity, and the lack of connectivity on those social media streets. No kind words. Nothing. No “checking in” on the person. Nothing. It was jarring. But it also fostered some…thing in me and caused me to decide to do better.

I haven’t been on social media in a while (you cannot possibly understand the peace of mind that comes with this but moving on). But one thing I started to model, just before quitting it, and will continue to when I get back is caring more.  Apart from caring more, I also started to be more intentional and more mindful of how I use social media. I no longer just scrolled past without concern. I began to show concern, proffering solutions where someone asked for help; paying compliments when someone looked good; and sometimes, just laughing at jokes. It’s not exactly hard for me because I don’t follow that many people nor do many people follow me. Mine is definitely on the smaller side of IG communities. 

Whatever you do on YOUR social media is your business, of course. But stop waiting for people to die to give them their flowers. Stop waiting till something tragic happens before you say nice things about them. I remember when Virgil Abloh passed away (may he Rest in Peace). Our arbiters of [pop] culture must forgive me (please), but I had NO idea who he was before he passed. It wasn’t until  after he died (quite unfortunately) that people wrote such impressive stuff about all he accomplished and the insurmountable barriers he broke in the world of fashion. I’m like dang, if y’all felt this way why did no one ever say anything all this while? Why am I just hearing of this phenomenal person? It’s why when Insecure ended weeks back and people were rightfully talking about all Issa accomplished with that show, I was all for it. There is no need for someone to die before you realize how great they were or before you express how impressed you are with them.

Being intentional and mindful about my social media use and consumption for me is beyond stanning my favorite celebrity (I don't really have any tbh). For me, at its premise, the idea is to be human both in the real world and online. It means I will be kind to people (or at least try to be cos people be wilding) even when I disagree with them. Some people go through their entire day with no encounter of kindness; maybe work is toxic, home is toxic, maybe even they are toxic themselves. If they are going to post on social media and I will see it, then I’m going to be that voice of kindness they experience. I am going to try to care.  However, please understand that this is not always possible every day or even for everyone because the sheer volume of what you have to respond to may be overwhelming. That’s fine. But that does not necessarily negate everything written above. It just requires a bit more thoughtfulness and creativity. 

In so many ways, what happened after the aforementioned Instagram Story I posted put a lot in perspective for me. The irony of social media should not be lost on us: although its design suggests familiarity, it actually does not encourage intimacy at all, and it is even less emotionally fulfilling than connecting in person. This woman quit social media for a year and discovered that while we think all the overload of information and pictures mean we are up to date on our friends’ lives, it’s merely a perception, and connections are actually worse off. This psychology today’s post also offers tangible “proofs” that no one really cares about our social media posts. 

It's easy to understand how and why people became so indifferent and jaded on social media. Overload of information on social media causes a lot of harm: it increases misinformation and distrust, for instance. But even more than that, it makes us jaded. But if we are going to use this thing at all, isn't it our responsibility to find ways to use it well, to use it responsibly? There are real consequences to being on social media. This 2017 study found that adolescents who spent more time on social media and just smartphones more generally were more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies than their counterparts who spent more time on non-screen activities.  Yet, while being shunned online or having a negative social media experience increases the risk of depression, even a positive online exchange only marginally reduced depression risk in this other study. The way I see it is,  marginal effect  or not, positive online exchanges still reduced the risk of depression. For every 10 percent rise in positive interaction, that study found that there was a 4 percent decrease in depression risk. That is tangible. 

I spoke with another friend of mine about this, and she said it is possible that while people saw what I posted, they just didn’t read the epistle I posted. Maybe people don’t actually stop to read stuff like that. That’s absolutely plausible. Sometimes people type up such long stuff (or post way too many things) and you are too lazy to actually go through it.  In the spirit of transparency and honesty, even I don’t go past the first four or at most five circles on my IG homepage before exiting because I get very bored with that app rather easily. So trust me, I get it. We are inherently self-conceited and selfish. So again, I get it. You just don’t read that far. It’s not that you are callous, you are just distracted. Hey look, people have the attention span of a rat these days anyway.  Notwithstanding, I will be more intentional about social media, if I ever use it again (cos y’all I’m over it) and I think you should be too. 



P.S: Check out the elaborate case I made against social media. 

No comments