Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a ‘Bucket List’ style post pop up on Facebook at least a dozen times. Always the same, never any changes to the US-centric theme regardless of where the individual lives, and always including two items that I find hard to believe anyone would have on their life wish list – i.e. watch someone die and have been divorced…
Every time I see the list I am filled with a sense of disappointment. I try to scroll by, avoid commenting, pretend it never happened, but when it popped up again just recently I wondered if that was the right path to be taking. I questioned whether my silence was in fact signally tacit acceptance of a growing problem in which we value quantity over quality in the way we connect online.
Just in case you’re one of the few people who haven’t seen it, the post looks like this:
Bucket List – please play along. You’ll be surprised at the responses (Fluffy’s comment: ‘not really’). Put a * if you have done it.
This was fun! (Again, ‘not really…’)
Fell in love
Gone on a blind date
Watched someone die
Been to Canada
Ridden in an ambulance
Been to Hawaii
Been to Europe
Been to Las Vegas
Been to Washington D.C
Been to Nashville
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Flown in a helicopter
Been on a cruise
Served on a jury
Been in a movie
Danced in the rain
Been to Los Angeles
Been to New York City
Played in a band
Laughed so much you cried
Laughed so hard you pee’d
Caught a snowflake on your tongue
Had a pet(s)
Been downhill skiing
Been water skiing
Rode on a motorcycle
Traveled to all 50 states
Jumped out of a plane
Been to a drive-in movie
Rode an elephant
Rode a Horse
Been on TV
Been in the newspaper
Gotten a piercing
Gotten a tattoo
Driven a stick shift vehicle
Been scuba diving
Lived on your own
Rode in the back of a police car
Got a speeding ticket
Hold your finger down and select copy… Then go into status and hold down finger and select paste.
Of course, there are some beauties in there – donated blood (always a good thing), danced in the rain, sledding, sung karaoke… but there are also some that should make you stop and pause…
Ridden in an ambulance – unless you’re an ambo, this is rarely a good thing.
Rode an elephant – people are still proud of this? Really? (Here’s a link for more information on the ethics of this…)
Rode in the back of a police car – again, rarely a good thing.
Got a speeding ticket – to be clear, I received a speeding ticket when I first started driving 25 years ago and it has never been something I have bragged about.
There was a time of course, when social media was shiny and new and we were cautious, if somewhat eager in our use of it. But lists like this one are a potential indicator that over time we have allowed ourselves to be lulled into contributing to what can often only be described as a deluge of irrelevant information and tripe. For while there are still pockets of brilliance out there, and times when my jaw drops with awe, mostly these days the internet is a virtual washing machine of meaningless GIFs, rehashed photos, worn out quotes and repetitive posts, going around and around… and into which no one has thought to put detergent.
The problem stems from the accessibility of the medium and our relationships with the people who are doing the posting. Because so often the content is put out there by our friends, and there is so much of it, our acceptance has increased in terms of what we would otherwise call bullshit on or view (at the very least) as semi-offensive. Thoughtless and excessive posting on social media has clogged up the pipes so much that we can’t see the trash amid the treasure, and therefore challenge some of the shit that is getting by. I’m talking about the disguised racism, the shaming, the sexism and the fact that, perhaps unintentionally, social media has gradually become a vehicle for unchecked hate… And that’s before we even get to the matter of trolls…
And of course, there are the opinions – which we all have, even on matters we knew nothing about before asking Google. But the truth is that having access to social media doesn’t mean we should voice those opinions. The principle of ‘if you’ve got nothing nice to say, saying nothing at all’ still holds true, both in real life and in the digital world.
It’s also not enough to rely on our favourite social media platforms to monitor content and tackle the haters and the perverts. Just as we shouldn’t stand by and hope someone else intervenes in a real life incident, we shouldn’t stand by virtually. The growing scale of access to social media does not diminish our responsibility and we don’t need filters such as Facebook’s community standards – in fact we shouldn’t rely on them or trust them at all to be our morale adjudicators. We’ve all born witness to cases in which they have been used as a means to reinforce standards that only a few haters hold to or manipulate public perceptions based on petty mindedness or simple payback. We need to keep in mind that there isn’t a single person sitting at the other end of the ether registering our complaints, dutifully checking each one, ensuring integrity in the process. We’re talking algorithms people, and there is no wizard behind the curtain.
At the end of the day it’s up to us to be calling poor form out at a grass roots level. If something offends us either because it promotes hate or encourages false connections (such as how I viewed the above post) then it’s up to us to make the effort to change that. And it’s also up to us not to add to the cycle of trash (and no, I’m not referring to all those cute puppy and kitten videos – keep them coming) or to simply speak up when lists like the above one dismiss the emotional impact of events such as death and divorce by viewing them as ‘collectables’.
With every new social media platform it is imperative to ensure our connection is maximised, rather than diminished. If we don’t lead the charge then one day we may wake to find nothing but white noise.