Social Media Cults: Why the Personalization of Information has a Dark Side

The extent to which we can personalize life is incredible.  Any interest that someone could have is specialized in by at least one person, place or company – and deliverable to them distraction free and on command.  No matter the time of day or season, it’s beyond convenient (with minimal effort) to find anything that you’d want to do, anything you’d want to see, and anything you’d want to hear.

By using social media we filter the world so that it presents itself in a way that is more palatable to us – really.  We opt to only follow and friend the people that we like, as well as those who we agree with.  And by doing so help insure that all of our information networks are tailored specifically to produce exactly what we want; or at least what we think we want.

0A9A0265I’m unaware of a time in history other than now that has been so infatuated by this cult like behavior (with such great variety).  We are obsessed with following.  And have given birth to a whole new social order because of it.  Not only is how many followers a person has considered a social currency, but also the ratio between how many people that person follows to followers.  And idiosyncratic considerations like these are simply the tip of the iceberg.

It’s a game, and fun one at that.  Even though we try to make it seems tangible and objective, it’s not.  It is only flattering – and sometimes useful when used appropriately.  But too often do we wrap our identities around it – a behavior I’m guilty of.  When in the end it all means very little.

Scottish Country Road

Just go on Twitter and search for Pope Francis (@Pontifex).  As the spiritual leader of Catholic world he has 3.3 million Twitter followers – which is impressive number.  Then again, Justin Bieber (@Justinbieber) has 47.5 million…

Whenever I express to my parents an opinion about something that we agree upon, they never fail to cut me off by saying, “you’re preaching to the choir!”  And it’s true.  More often than not does everyone only seek out those people who they know will agree with them – just to reaffirm (and not challenge) their own opinions.  However, by using social media as a primary source of information…which most of us do…a person develops relatively meaningless opinions and perceptions of the world.  Because on those personalized networks you make it so that the choir is preaching to you – creating an environment of self-serving propaganda.

0A9A0144It’s ironic really.  That the technologies purposed to expose people to the world are more used by people so that they can only see what they want to see.  What it causes though is polarization, and cult like allegiances to the groups that people most identify with.

The access we have to information has made it a bit easier to discover what’s actually going on in the world.  But it has made it much easier to discover only what you want to believe is going on in the world.  I’m beyond guilty of this.  For I often only read specific sources because I know that I’ll agree with their answers – and in no way am I an anomaly in this…

– Sepp

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