The lowly like

Don’t disparage the “like,” “favorite,” or other social media element that let’s me acknowledge you. Yes, as a means of communication, it is a dust mote in the shadow of a hug; but it still works – it still let’s you know that yes, I’m here, I see you.  And isn’t that, at the end of the day, what we people so very much need?

It’s been suggested that even chemical or photosensitive reactions can be considered a form of consciousness.

If we accept Chalmer’s assertion, and the whole notion of panpsychism that he discusses, then we can accept that these social media triggers and reactions can be seen as extensions of consciousness.

The British illustrator, John Holcroft, has captured a common sentiment about social media; it’s a place where the gathering of likes is about feeding our ego.

Holcroft is sharing a common sentiment; a form of backlash against the nose-to-the-mobile social media addicted society that ours has become. But even before social media, we complained about the depths of relationships – that very often, many of our social transactions were shallow.

They are. Yes; and they’re still important.

Even the nod of recognition you receive from an acquaintance as you walk down the street can communicate a connectedness that in the absence of that nod would be missed.

British psychologist Robin Dunbar famously asserted that gossip is a form of social grooming, and that those activities help create bonds between members of a group; that those members would be more likely to come to one another’s defense when attacked by a predator.

Of course, we who are at this historical juncture of social media – the first wave of users – suffer the most.  We over-do it.  The pendulum swings the other way; we post illustrations like those of Holcroft, and suggest device-free events and digital Sabbaths. I’m sure the next generation won’t suffer in the same ways that ours has.

But meanwhile, it might pay to see beyond the pendulum-swinging zeitgeist; see to the underlying patterns at play. Even those thousands of micro-transactions that occur in social media have a power beyond that of our own ego stroking. We’re connecting.

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