Social media is scary. It is scary, because my face is on it and in it, encoded. Every day that passes that I have not managed to become a widely circulated internet meme being tweeted globally, I breathe a little easier. You may think that’s narcissistic, but is it really? The number of dumb things posted between friends on Instagram, or thrown around twenty comments deep into a Facebook war, makes me happy for everyone that the human mind does not catalog the way Google does. I honestly believe we’re all one 30-seconds of fame shy of becoming Titus Andromedon’s worst nightmare, i.e. his “Gonna Be Famous Remix” viral video.
Social media is scary because I can delete the culmination of seven years of Facebook messages with someone, but it does not delete them from their side too. It is scary, because you are not reminded with an “I agree to the terms and conditions” every time you are wi-fi enabled. However, you are agreeing every time you log on that you give permission for the world to remember all your moves. You cannot control someone screenshotting your forced, triple-chin smile on Snapchat any more than you can stop your mom from getting the leftover spaghetti sauce off your face with her licked thumb.
Social media remembers, and that is the terrifying part.
And yet, in the face of all the potential for petty horror (a brace-face and bad perm pic from 7th grade popping up) and actual horror, humanity chooses to keep on. I think social media demonstrates the best, the worst and the most annoying in our civilization. We endure bad viral videos and incessant pictures of cats because most people believe in the good of other people.
We believe in the power of liking pictures of a good hair day on Instagram and telling people happy birthday, even though we did not actually remember for ourselves. These are simple acts of kindness. Following the King Henry VIII (@KngHnryVIII) on Twitter makes me literally lol. Trending hashtags can not only direct you to Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag game on Wednesdays, but also to social justice movements. That is beautiful! Laughter and the potential to upset problematic social systems all in 140 characters or less.
If aliens beamed down and collected our tablets and phones and laptops, what would they find? After discovering our passwords are easy to guess, I think they would find we are trusting. We are transparent in a way we have never been before. We are vulnerable, open books.
Or we are stupid; the aliens could always go with that theory too.
So in the end, yes I am terrified at those conspiracy articles that say the government is watching me when I’m taking a selfie for Instagram. I am alarmed that I could go on a first date, and if he proves to be a proper sleuth (or nosy), then my date could know everything preliminary about me. But what a mixed bag it is, because we also get to follow parody Twitter accounts and change the world. Thanks, social media.