I grew up in a time when social media was simply either the guy who takes his holiday photos to work to show them to his buddies or the conversation at lunch is about what was on TV the night before certainly not that he might have had a fight with his wife or girlfriend. Social media was much less unassuming to understand and it was less diversely shared, as only close colleagues could see it, so unless it gets published by another means only the few can view it. There were no cell phones, no Wi-Fi, no websites; hell there wasn’t even a cheap calculator till 1974, so places to share were very personal, so feedback could be immediate, intimate and usually honest without being hurtful and always humorous, hopefully.
I know it was when I gave my first slide show of our school trip to the Mediterranean when I was seventeen that social media can be very powerful tool in a group setting if presented the right way. I had taken some provocative pictures of a few members of our group and combined them with some witting story telling of our events and everyone was laughing, even the teacher. One of the explanations it remained such a memorable event was that to many they had participated in the incident and the reliving of the incident brought back certain emotions that all were able to share as a group at that time and not just individually. One could feel the cohesiveness, the closeness of the group as they shared and relived their experiences with the rest of the class and how the other classmates were now considered taking the trip next year.
For me it was a good way to do my public speaking final test; in the dark and get a good mark. I am shy by nature so public speaking was not one of my favorite things to do but the re-telling of our time on and off the ship gave me a certain amount of confidence within the class and also some respect, probably, maybe even some resentment but I didn’t realize it at the time. Being an adolescent you really don’t know much around you but what happens from day to day so if there were any bad comments nobody said anything. So feedback was positive and thus the patterning began.
I would take pictures and slides and show them to friends and some family and I got nothing but good feedback. Even at school when I joined the photography club and learnt how to develop black & white film and as things developed, so to speak, pun intended too, I got good positive feedback. It wasn’t until I showed my slides to my father and he critiqued them did I start to feel not so good. He had worked for a major photographer earlier in his working life and always had good camera equipment and took a lot of pictures. So comments from a “professional” did mean a lot to me: Not so much forty years later.
Now I had a conflict going on in my head. I took the pictures and I thought they were at least good. The majority of the feedback I got was again good. So why was this person not agreeing with the others and just humming and hawing about whether it is a “good” picture. At times one could insert the word “like” into this conversation instead of “good” just to bring it into today’s terms. So what do I do? Do I say to this person “you don’t know what you are talking about” or do I just shut-up and take it? It was late 1970’s and with my father’s upbringing you didn’t talk disrespectful of your elders. So that was it, my picture taking slowed to a crawl, I stopped taking it as a serious career path and pretty much put the camera away till I had something I really wanted to remember and that came in the form of motorcycle racing.
As the communication, electronics and computers industry evolved to give us the methods, venues and the devices used today to create and share our own personal social media currently, the playground has become lawless in areas never imagined. Now I’m sure there were personal sex films back in the early film days but much not as may or as prevalent today because it was easier to make now. Forty years ago you would have to be friends with a film developer or risk the police finding out from the druggist or he might get copies made for his buddies: Great times. So media is universal, ask any caveman but the way it’s distributed is how we get ourselves into trouble. Social media is more prevalent today as it is being industrialized and the problems inherent in manmade systems will appear gradually at first then into more serious issues until we do something about it. Man is somewhat predictable around certain behaviors.
So why does Anti-Social Media exist? Balance? Or just human nature? It has always existed but my choice is balance and if you have positive social media then anti-social media has to exist just so we can tell the difference, I guess? It’s like on Star Trek you can’t have matter without anti-matter and if the two mix with each other then the universe will blow-up. Well not that bad but bad enough to make some participating in the dance of social media threads, whether freely or not, end their lives based on their interaction on the various social media outlets. When does one person’s social media become another’s anti-social media? One could argue it was just a joke, a prank, it was all in fun but who decides especially after someone has ended their life because of it? Now the courts can thank-fully.
Now just as social media can get over done so can anti-social media be dangerous but it can also be liberating. The Arab Spring is a good example of how anti-government social media created a movement that has a very constant effect even today; witness the conflict in Syria is a direct result of this anti-government social media campaign. Now early anti-social media was the social activism of the 60’s, the investigative report programs of the 70’s and 80’s, the social consciousness documentaries of the 90’s and now anti-social media has evolved into this type of controversial information sharing.
Good or bad, social or anti-social, it’s all media on the interweb and without it the internet would be a desolate place sort of like some cities in China: All built but no one can afford the housing. Businesses are banking on this new model of creating consumers and have tasked social media to be its pipeline to drive sales and profits. The internet needs both positive and negative media to exist and business will have to adapt and bring, negative or antisocial media, into their wheelhouse in order to better deal with the consumer landscape that presents itself.