Here’s a confounding statistic that was recently reported. The average user of Social Media – facebookers, texters, sexters, egotrippers, twits – spends over two hours a day doing it.
Whatever it is. Sending photos, like Anthony Weiner? Narrating their own life, second by second? “Now I am brushing my teeth. Now I am rinsing. Now I am walking the dog. Now I am getting arthritic thumbs telling you I am standing in line to purchase anti-inflammatory drugs for my thumbs.”
The big question isn’t what these folks find to Social Mediate about? Long ago Parkinson noticed that work expands to fill the time available. Well, so does trivia and self-regard. No, the real question is where the daily two and a half hours came from. Before there were tweets and facials (I guess that’s what a Facebook post is called), what occupied those hours? No extra time has been added to the day so Media-istas must have cut an equivalent amount of time out of something else.
Cooking actual meals instead of boiling or nuking frozen pouches of food? Studying? “OMG that must have been awful in the olden days when you were learning things when you could have been sharing on-line gossip with Tiffany and Brittany about Brad.” But Tiffany and Brittany used to gossip about Brad just as much before Social Media. They just did it face-to-face or over the Princess phone so that’s probably a wash.
Maybe the answer is that nothing has been dropped to permit Social Media to claim hours a day. Instead, maybe people are Social Mediating during the same hours that they always spent bathing, playing sports, watching TV, driving or working. They are just texting or tweeting or burbling simultaneously. They are multi-tasking.
This might be some sort of evolution of the human species if it was possible. Unfortunately, humans don’t actually appear to be very good at multitasking. You have probably noticed this in the case of all those Media users behind the wheel who go too slow or too fast, weave from land to lane and go on red and stop on green.
Similarly, people sending texts or playing games with friends in Fiji or burbling on their phones at the same time they are supposed to be waiting on customers seem not to be performing at the peak of their abilities. You can spot this by their glazed expression and the fact that you have been waiting for help for the last 20 minutes. Also by how annoyed they are when you interrupt their electronic social life to offer to exchange your money for their products.
Still, there might be a silver lining to the brain-sapping, productivity-destroying, dehumanizing effects of Social Media. After all, there are 1.6 million traffic accidents a year attributable to cell phone users talking and texting while driving. So maybe Social Media is nature’s way of culling the herd. Except the texters may be the ones to survive while mowing down innocent Socially Unmediated people in crosswalks. In which case, it’s the end of civilization.
Damn you, Zuckerberg!