By Piya Chee
When Louis Ng finally came out on his narcissistic tendencies, I secretly applauded his honesty. For someone as self-assured as me, it’s something that I find tough coming to terms with – that I’m as caught in the craving for likes on my Facebook page; that I fear missing and losing out when I read about frenemy Ling’s wedding on my newsfeed because my own Mr Right is no where in sight; and that I consciously engage in online activities which help shape the perfect Piya Chee that I think I am.
This is what social media do to us in the name of involvement, empowerment and positive reinforcement. I say it’s all an entrapment that turns us into a young child constantly seeking for approval and validation. Such entrapment, borrowing the words from Louis’ post, is a cyber-reaper that clouds our mind and handicaps our ability to critically evaluate at times.
Cyber Reaper #2 – Digital Herd Mentality and Extremism
One of the ways that the savvy digital-literati go about getting rewarded with approval involves engaging themselves with trending topics and memes. We tweet about “twerking” because Miley Cyrus set the cyber-community on fire with her controversial performance at the recent MTV Video Music Awards. We hear about the most ridiculous accidents and at least one death when posting “planking” pictures was the craze. Fortunately I only enjoy planking on my bed.
The social media sphere is a live showcase of herd mentality, where most of us become digital sheep that do and say what many others “like”. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing shameful about going with popular sentiments. It’s absolutely legitimate that we want to be (and be seen as) in the know but herd mentality may spiral to mindless flaming and extremism. The stiff competition for attention means that moderation or sitting on the fence has little value because it is always easier to stand out from the cacophony through outrageous stunts and extreme views. I love hearing from people with strong opinions but the strength of a viewpoint need not be drawn from polarity.
Undeniably, the Internet is testament to the pen or keyboard being a mightier tool than the sword. The proliferation of self-expression through words, images and videos online connect us and bring about changes. However, the promise for change is not a guarantee and this leads me to share on the final cyber reaper of pseudo revolution that we have come to blindly pursue.
Cyber Reaper #3 – Pseudo Revolution
My biggest love for social media, despite my grievances over how it embarrassingly enslaves me, stems from how it connects me to things I enjoy or support without reservation. I can share with you intimate details about my dream man from Taiwanese band Mayday because he is my friend on Weibo (Chinese equivalence of Twitter). Just some time ago, he sought help from me (and 16 million other friends) on clearing level 274 of Candy Crush.
Before you crush me from my daydream indulgence, let me also share that I actively use social media to champion causes such as the “Free My Internet” movement and “Speak Good Singlish” campaign – by liking those Facebook pages that congregate people of similar passion. I speak up for my concerns over our CPF and Medisave by posting status update on my own Facebook page, and wait for my 750 friends to agree, like and share. I place my trust on how these actions would translate into network effects of sort that in turn spur for real revolution. But no I didn’t turn up for any protest at Hong Lim, because I managed to gather my friends for buffet lunch. I didn’t write to the PM Office because he would get to read my Facebook post when it goes viral. So yes, I am a keyboard warrior without combat experience on the grounds.
The convenience of social media is alluring and highly capable of deluding us to see our online engagements as larger than life. As an educator who speaks of seizing the day and making a difference, I am guilty of not doing enough to be the change I want to see. Perhaps it’s time for breakthrough. My next project in the pipeline: Piya Chee for world peace.