Cyberspace, Outerspace & Innerspace
“Human beings are social animals,” my grandfather used to say. He meant, “You can’t just keep to yourself all the time; go out there and play with kids your age!” Fast forward a few years and we find that the meaning of the term “social” has transformed into something much more intricate than just describing the basic human need for companionship. Rather, when paired with the word “media,” “social” has become a mega-entity, providing connection on local and global scales.
Everyone needs an online presence because, without it, you are essentially signing yourself up to fizzle into the online ethers of no man’s land. The pressure is on. If you want to be an authentic, current, popular, or smart individual you need a social identity, and you need to do what everybody else is doing with that social identity. It seems as if all social outlets lure us into the depths of cyber-consciousness, rather than consciousness of the real self. The media dictates our actions, reactions, fashions, and the people we should like or dislike. Everyone has their favourite stars, their most watched TV shows, their best-looking brands. Everywhere you turn there is a link to this and a promotion about that. In fact, social media itself has become a megabrand, because if you’re not online, whether you’re a person or a business, you’re well behind the times, and therefore unlikely to get any substantial attention.
You may argue, however, that the prevalence of varied social outlets has given us all a drive to accomplish more, to get organised, and to meaningfully instigate change. But, how has a consumer-focused online culture shaped society’s priorities for change, particularly that of the younger generation?
In the nineteenth century, young women protested for equal rights at a higher education, but today you’ll find, at least in North America, that the same age group of girls spend time planning, promoting, and performing a massive protest against not having a high school dress code that restricts how much (or how little) clothing girls can wear at school, simply because the boys don’t have the same restrictions. Similarly, prior to the internet marketplace, buying something involved a conscious, calculated observance of a product’s value and its contribution to a person’s daily life. Today it involves one click and a few seconds wait—and even that is too damn much, right? Even just looking not too far back from today, if you wanted to spend time with someone you would have physically walked to that person, going out into the tangible world, instead of Skyping in and screen sharing a Youtube-uploaded rom-com. You would, therefore, have had a far greater range of physical and psychological experiences leading up to the interaction, over a longer period of time.