“Human beings evolved to gossip, preen, manipulate and ostracize. We are easily attracted to this new gladiatorial circus, even when we know that it can make us cruel and superficial”, commented Jonathan Haidt and Tobías Rose-Stockwell in The Atlantic* magazine (2019), considering that social networks convert many of our citizens. into arsonists competing to create the most incendiary posts and images.
If in ancient Rome, the Emperor Nero, influenced by his lover Poppaea, encouraged him to burn the city to blame the Christians for its destruction and have a pretext to condemn them to be devoured by beasts, social networks are the new pyres that we use to incinerate honors and prestige. Language, instead of being a vehicle of communication, is becoming a tool to vilify others. Proper usage is no longer important, nor are grammatical rules or the structuring of sentences to build ideas and rational arguments.
Excessive and unregulated access to social networks has brought us down to a linguistic level because words and meaning are no longer taken care of. Every day, instead of expanding the vocabulary, our word resources are reduced to the extreme in their desire to synthesize everything, reduce expressions to a minimum. And the ideas turn into telegraphic phrases, the phrases into words, the words into carefree, lazy expressions and then we stop writing and we reduce a whole theory, a feeling or emotion to an emoticon, those little drawings in folders of different categories that we use to respond to our feelings.
That is reducing our ability to express what springs from the soul, ideals and convictions and instead, as if we were going back to the era of caves where they communicated through hieroglyphs embodied in caves, we send each other “little drawings” , “little hearts”, “little faces”, “little fingers” preventing us from structuring what we feel with words from our language.
If we add the lack of reading, the omnipresence of screens – television, tablets, computers and cell phones – and the diminished or poor use of words that we have supplanted by images, we foresee a serious problem of memorization, rationality and mental agility to build scaffolding of knowledge.
The metaphor of the Italian novelist and linguist Umberto Eco, now deceased, who was amazed at the destruction of language, but, above all, at the indiscriminate incursion into social networks of people in the homogeneous conglomerate, who without the slightest shame or prudently intervene in social networks, without having the minimum preparation on the subject they criticize and in a noisy and vulgar way they prosecute everyone.
Something like if in a bullfight, a spontaneous throws himself into the ring to take away the attention of the bullfighter, who for years prepares and develops a technique to face the beast or as if in a professional soccer game, any amateur or beginner get into play, kick the ball left and right, spoiling the skill developed in years of preparation and training of soccer players.
Well, Umberto Eco in relation to the use of social networks, said by way of comparison and crude example that before, the fools who were discussing some subject in a bar with several beers or glasses of wine between chest and back, were silent there same because they had no arguments or elements to debate and less in their drunken state.
However, now with social networks, those same ones, as if they were drinking in a bar, who have no idea about anything and no type of preparation can lie to a Nobel prize winner because they felt like it. So plain and simple. Just because they have in their hands an electronic device called a cell phone and that they activate with their fingers in a simple click and they are on the same line within a social network.
In some way, we must recognize that this possibility and opportunity to interact is wonderful, but we must also consider that this Nobel prize winner in science to reach that level investigated for years and found a novel result that reflects it in his theories for that someone, who has not the slightest idea or knows what he was talking about, put to him: you’re fine asshole.
And with his hand on his waist and his fingers on the keyboard of his cell phone, he sits elbow to elbow with a specialist in that virtual closeness that puts us side by side. It does not mean nor is it proposed that not all users of the network participate, but it does mean that there is minimal knowledge of what is being said or thought. Above all, keep the rules of politeness and respect.
Unfortunately, today you can virtually stone anyone you want, with the comfort and irresponsibility that you don’t even have to show your face.
Today we prosecute, we judge virtually, we digitally lynch on social networks, we babble expletives as if we were in a bar, drinking and throwing bravado. Except that, in bars, a sane or sober person makes him shut up and the next day, hungover, he forgets the offenses or regrets what he said, but the comment did not come out of the bar. In social networks, no one shuts them up and the expressions remain forever on the networks, staining the honor of people.
In a letter to the director of the newspaper El País, on October 16, 2016, reader Sebastián Navarrete commented:
Why is any nonsense that occurs to write to an imbecile on a social network elevated to the category of news to the point of dedicating those outbursts to broadcasting those outbursts for minutes and minutes of news and other television and radio programs? Isn’t that how the provocateur achieves his goal? Maybe it would be better not to distract our attention and spend that time informing ourselves of other issues that do affect us all”.
But in the end, we ourselves are the protagonists of this phenomenon. That is a reflection of us. Social networks are now our mirror.
The author of Arden las Redes (SOTO, 2017) comments that in 2006 the cover of Time magazine was a mirror. The character of the year was all of us. What was that mirror telling us? That we had within our reach a loudspeaker and a wooden box; that any pedestrian had acquired the right and the technology to set up their own grandstand and engage in joyous spiel for hours. The world had changed in the blink of an eye and the technological novelty now exerted its power of fascination.
*HAIDT, Jonathan, Tobias Rose-Stockwell, (2019) The Dark Psychology of Social Media, theatlantic.com/magaizne/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763.
SOTO Ivars, Juan (2017) Networks Burn, Penguin Random House, Barcelona
We would like to thank the author of this post for this outstanding material