In “Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All” (2012), Arianna Huffington brings to light the recent problem of obsession with social media. Huffington points out how “going viral has gone viral” which causes “moving forward for the sake of moving” and thus “trending topics” with little substance; she describes how companies are “hungry to embrace social media and virality, even if they’re not exactly sure what that means” and argues that “social media are a means, not an end” because overall, social media has become “a major distraction” from the more important issues of “poverty” and “downward mobility” or “ingenuity and innovation.” Huffington argues against the fetishization of “social” status in order to illustrate the superficiality of much of today’s social media. She writes to American society to make people think twice about their everyday use of social media and how much of it is worthwhile.
Huffington, Arianna. ”Virality Uber Alles: What the Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All.” The Huffington Post. 8 March 2012. Web. 11 March 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/social-media_b_1333499.html>
Man, I really like Huffington. Her writing is just so relatable. I’ve noticed that she likes to point out the ill-informed focus of the media. First, it was with the focus on the bad and not the good in the Abundance article; then it was the focus on the culture war and not the real issues; now it’s the focus on the progress and not the purpose of the progress: the act and not the destination. I think she’s making an important point here. (uber alles, by the way, means above all) People in general need to realize that just being “viral” doesn’t reflect at all on the thing’s value in society. Huffington quoted another HuffPost writer, Michael Calderone: “Nothing is too inconsequential to be made consequential.”
I see this crap every day on Facebook. Every single day, there are countless new “memes” made by bored teenagers with the hopes of becoming viral. The members of the Facebook community thrive on the number of likes their statuses and wall posts and photos receive…yet, is the value of those words or pictures changed by how popular it is? If no one “liked” your status about your goldfish dying, does that make you unpopular?
The answer should be absolutely not. This “fetishization” of social media is affecting the self-esteems of teenagers across the nation. You can tell who’s the most dependent by how many “selfies” they have in their wall photos: pictures the person took of themselves, usually with a phone, either in the mirror, or from above so that the viewer is given a good look down her shirt (and yeah, usually it’s a girl). I mean, having a few photos of yourself is okay; everyone likes to share pretty pictures of themselves now and then. But posting one every day with a caption of “I am beautiful no matter what they say” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is basically screaming “Like my picture because I’m pretty and I like knowing that you think I’m pretty!” After 230 pictures, I think we get it.
So back to the topic of memes. This was my favorite paragraph from the article:
“We are in great haste,” wrote Thoreau in 1854, “to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” And today, we are in great haste to celebrate something going viral, but seem completely unconcerned whether the thing that went viral added one iota of anything good — including even just simple amusement — to our lives. The truth is that sometimes it does, but very often it doesn’t. It’s not even a very complex question; the problem is that we seldom bother to ask the question before we dutifully hop on the algorithmic viral wave. We’re treating virality as a good in and of itself, moving forward for the sake of moving. “Hey,” someone might ask, “where are you going?” “I don’t know — but as long as I’m moving it doesn’t matter!” Not a very effective way to end up in a better place.
SO TRUE. Memes aren’t even funny most of the time. Just today, after I read this article, I saw that someone had created a Facebook page of “*** High School Memes” (*** being the name of my school). Really??? We honestly are so lame that we need to have our own page of memes?? I mean, it’s cute and all; everyone gets to put all the school’s inside jokes into meme form, like how we haven’t had a snow day this year or what happened in the library the other day. But has it added “one iota of anything good” to anything? NO! People are just going viral to go viral. And it has no meaning. We as a society need to realize that social media is a tool, as Huffington states. We have to use it for some greater purpose, whether it’s to advertise a benefit concert or simply to update friends on what’s going on, which was the initial reason behind Facebook. But time spent on pointless unentertaining viral videos and pictures is time wasted.
Anyway, enough with the rant. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the article, based on the original quote by Saint Bernard:
So, the road to social media hell is paved with well-intended hashtags — as well as disingenuous or inauthentic ones.