The problem with Facebook, social media, and this generation

I have been following up with the “load of crap” on Facebook, especially that concerning Syria. I got offended – as a person – by both the lack of intellect, depth, or hindsight by both sides of the equation. Although some comments here and there sounded quite balanced and inspiring, but the general Facebook atmosphere SHOULD make any grown-up, with brains, very wary to actually take it too seriously.

It killed me today and yesterday to see news tickers quoting Facebook gibberish on different news channels. These news channels forgot to tell the world that those Facebookers are kidos, who think they have found a platform to express themselves,  Che-Guevara style.

The problem with social media is that it allows any small-minded, stupid kid, to blurb out their narrow-viewed, mood-swung, instinct-reigned, uncultivated opinions in the shape of groups on Facebook, or blogs, or twitter tweets, and they will be taken seriously. They will get quoted, and people will listen to children (who have no weight, neither in life experience, nor in the art of communication, and forget about depth of character), and take them seriously.

May they rest in peace… the giants of human history who have worked on themselves, read thousands of books, traveled the world, studied under great masters, discovered a thing or two, before standing in public and voicing their opinions about anything at all. How will Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Plato, and Ibn Arabi, feel when they see today’s phenomenon of social media (and its kidish patrons).

A generation of kids who spend most of their time behind their monitors, is now being heard, loud and clear, and it is confusing everyone with their ramblings. They don’t even know the ABCs of journalism (objectivity being one) and they go around posting “news” about incidents they do not fathom, using wording that fuels hatred, anger, confusion and crazy ideas in the hearts and heads of 20-something enthusiasts who probably listen to Bob Marley, consider Ziad Rahbani a role-model, and have a T-shirt or two of Che Guevara.

I was just like them only a few years ago, I had a Che Guevara ashtray, I wanted to die for freedom, my blood boiled when I faced or read about injustice (or what I perceived as injustice), I listened to music that made me melancholic all the time, because happiness is only for the posh and the yuppie (which I thought I wasn’t). Back then (which is only a few years ago), I didn’t have Facebook to pour all my frustrations and vanities into. I thought I knew better than everybody when it came to politics, I thought I supported the right causes.

The vanity of youth is a common accessory to those in their teenage years, in their twenties, and even their early thirties. It is quite dangerous that those are now the driving force behind social media, parading their short-sightedness, hot-temperateness, in every corner of cyberspace.

Do you know how damaging it is for young people to get heavy dozes of attention? They become spoiled, egoistic, selfish. They become more inclined to sensationalize things even more to get more attention, and what better place for any kid or teenager than cyberspace to root in and mobilize this attention, by blurting their un-tested ideals online, getting support from other angry, frustrated kidos, and calling it freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression?

Freedom of expression is for those who have worked hard to earn it, who have been tested, who have experienced many zones of life, who have shaped their opinions based on observation, on personal growth, on lessons learned.

Freedom of expression is not for any idiot in the street who thinks democracy is another excuse for him to swear vulgarly at others in power, those whom he envies deeply for driving a car he doesn’t own, or occupying a chair he dreams of sitting on.

Freedom is for those who are free from within from the shackles of the ego, from the envy of others, it is for those who sincerely care about others (rich and poor, educated and not so educated, Muslim or Christian). Freedom is for a breed of human beings who have achieved above-animal-hood levels of compassion, love for others, understanding, wisdom, and vision.

As a parent would you allow your 13 year old kid to run around as he liked, say what he wanted any time, insult others, etc? No. So how come there is a double standard in social media, where 13-year-old-minded teenagers can say what they liked without restrain?

  • Unfortunately, the movers and shakers of today’s global society are nothing more than a few Facebookers and Tweeps who lack the professional skills of analyzing politics, economics, social behavior, etc – but who are so good at shaping the opinions of their generation by using the emotional side of things, by saying things that tickle the weak-spot of any Che Guevara copycat.
  • Humanity, all of humanity, has taken a long time to realize and establish the fact that wisdom comes (mostly but not always) with experience, with time, after 30, or 40, you read about this in all heritages… all of it got blown away with the spread of social media which filled the universe with gibberish by anybody, anytime, without discrimination between the wise and the stupid.

So, when a news network comes and includes a ticker on a Facebook group calling for this or calling for that without actually taking into consideration the level of crap in this or that group, I feel we are in danger of drowning into more chaos.

With time, when traditional media institutions – who have habitually groomed their own set of opinion makers, can no longer support their off-line existence (therefor having no jobs for sound and cultivated writers) – are forced into becoming a social media outlet, what fragments of truth (any truth) will we have left? Facts will become the toys of social media tweeps and facebookers who think punctuation is archaic, let alone fact-checking. Anyone will be able to start a war anywhere, or a propaganda, or a false scandal, if they are clever enough to get supporters and “followers.”

About 50% Syrian

What is identity? I was raised Arab (of varying origins), with a Syrian mother, and Moroccan, Lebanese and Tunisian great grandfathers and grandmothers. I always felt 50% Syrian, and this percentage mattered to me more than anything else. Love of my life, my late Sufi grandmother, is Syrian... all her bedtime stories were about her life in Damascus. Damascus is where the heart dwells.
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8 Responses to The problem with Facebook, social media, and this generation

  1. abufares says:

    Quite an accurate description of the prevalent social media although part of the frustration of the “kids” and the “not-so-kids” is caused by the inadequacies of traditional journalism. Take Syria for example, local journalists and reporters are either morons who see everything in pink or hypocrites who advocate that all ills and shortcomings are imported or imposed from outside. On the other hand, I watched a couple of American experts on Middle Eastern affairs last night on CNN. In addition to being arrogant SOB’s they had no clue whatsoever about the reality of the Syria (for instance) they were talking about. 
    The kids and the not-so-kids are fed up. It’s graffiti, the same you would find in subway stations and public bathrooms. Alienation can do that, poverty, injustice, disparity and the inability of self-expression in a more dignified manner. 

    • 50% Syrian says:

      Thanks Abufares. I was thinking about the same thing yesterday, with regards to the not-so-kids who comment on Syria and the Middle East from their ivory towers. I skimmed through a lot of articles yesterday where I found a lot of twisted material about the same piece of news, so much poison, and a lot of lurking deep urges to throw people into a vicious cycle of violence.
      But let’s imagine there was no social media, no internet, it would still be less chaos. A lot of crap, but less chaos.
      I agree with you on the point describing traditional media; even respectful media outlets, like Reuters, changed color after 9/11 because of pressure from the US. When Reuters and the BBC, at the beginning of the so-called war on terrorism, still maintained a skeptic stand towards the Bush campaign, they got a lot of pressure from the US and got accusations that threatened their existence. So, today, in this point in time, you gotta choose where you stand as a media outlet, or else you’ll be accused of being a supporter of this or that, just because you’re not on “their” side. These agencies have compromised a lot of their objectivity when it comes to Syria, they have already categorized it as a bad apple, and write their news accordingly, from that corner and with that breath.
      However, with traditional media, there is still a lot of black and white, there are standards, and you can almost tell when someone is writing below the standard, you can distinguish propaganda from objective writing.
      But in social media there are no red ( or green 🙂 ) lines, it’s all legitimate, and what is scary, is that social media has a false reputation as the true voice of normal people, which means any small-minded dude can become an opinion-maker overnight spreading hatred and anger, just because he can lure in “followers.” Opinion-shaping is a tough job. sometimes it is done by manipulating people through ads and campaigns of all kinds. I’d rather get bombarded with traditional tools of opinion-shaping, than get lost in the social-media jungle where kids reign supreme.

  2. M says:

    I agree. Thanks for saying what I didn’t quite have words for. It applies the world over. And I love your blog. It means a lot to me.
    Thank you for writing and sharing. I came upon you by accident but perhaps not so much.

  3. yaman says:

    People are responsible for their own words, but the problems you write about also lie with the reader. It might be appropriate to tell people to shut up sometimes (ie, Thomas Friedman), but instead of responding to something you object to with arrogant statements that sound like, “YOU ARE JUST TOO DUMB TO UNDERSTAND AND I AM TOO FAR ABOVE YOU TO EXPLAIN WHY, SO STOP TALKING!”, you could try persuasion to make your point. People are not too dumb. They are just waiting to hear the right argument.

  4. Abu Kareem says:

    I agree. Until the recent events I had never been on Twitter but have now realized how little real information it provides. The trouble is that in the absence of bona fide independent local journalists, one has to try to find out the truth between between the often propaganda driven state media reports and what everyone is uploading (both images and words) on the various social media sites. Putting aside the idiotic, vulgar and incendiary words promulgated by some of the kids and not-so-kids, I want to put in a plug for those kids who have shown us bright eyed, perhaps even naive, idealism that we older folks (here I speak for myself) seem to have had either lost or have had significantly extinguished by our own experiences. I truly believe that it is the brash young people of the Middle East who dared to dream beyond what their circumstances allowed them that have brought on these exciting, frightening, but hopeful times. I know I and others of my generation are envious and grateful at the same time.
    I want to secon M’s impression of your blog; always a joy to read your posts.

    • 50% Syrian says:

      There is also a third side reporting on Syria, foreign media (taking their soundbites from news agencies), who seem to be too eager to play with wording, exaggerate, and escalate their tone. An experienced journalist can spot all those escalator-y tactics in foreign media stories (you can’t call it coverage cause it’s not). Those guys have stereotypes about Syria that they keep stuffing into their stories.
      What is not-so-amusing is that western media has suffered a huge blow the past few years due to the economic crisis and have stopped sending or funding their own correspondents in “hot spots” like the Middle East, to cut back on expenses.
      So what they rely on is basically what Reuters, AFP, and AP (and Al Jazeera) have to say. What western media does is, take the original coverage by the aforementioned agencies (plus channel), skim through what official media, Al Hayat, various Arab websites, said about the conflict, and REHASH the news (that they cut and paste from different sources) to reflect the “tone” of their media institution. This means that non of the western media websites you visit is actually present on the ground in Syria, they have no idea whatsoever about what is going on. And so when Reuters decides to ignore the fact that millions of Syrians went out in support of the regime today, everybody else ended up not writing about it, and the west is still under the impression that things are still very hot in Syria with killings on the roll.
      Ever body has their own propaganda to fuel, including Reuters.
      Who reads western media? Decision-makers, senators, civil society activists… all of these people are forming their opinions based on a cut-and-paste job. Dangerous, don’t you think?
      On the far end you have state media, what’s in the middle is the truth.
      I feel I sidetracked a bit 😛
      Anyhow, glad you liked the blog Abu Karim, God bless.

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