Singing the social media blues


  • Letters
  • Thursday, 05 Apr 2012

We all need to harness the power of social media tools well, so say marketers and branding strategists. But doing so goes counter to our Asian trait of humility.

I HAVE been wondering whether to delete my Twitter account lately because the noise surrounding Twitter itself is becoming overwhel­ming. Social media may be a tool to promote one’s work, but it does contribute to “noise pollution” and raises one’s stress levels somewhat.

I have been thinking: the writers I read and admire never had to contend with social media and their work lives on. It is their admirers who tweet, set up Facebook pages, and promote their work, while they are entombed in their graves.

Do we really need social media? Is self promotion justified?

One of the things about us Asians is that humility is drilled in us, and to let our work speak for itself.

The Americanisation of life as we know it has forced us all to comprehend that to be successful, one must promote oneself rather shamelessly. This is a social climbing heaven.

The Daily Mail tells us why modesty is overrated and that being shameless will take you places (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2066922/Why-pays-blow-trumpet-Forget-modesty--new-research-reveals-way-life-shameless-self-promotion.html).

The daily may be suspect, though it does entertain, but does hit it on the nail on many occasions.

Couple that with reality TV and the Internet’s craze for making everything transparent, two degrees closer what have you – is it any wonder that we misbehave for the sake of it, knowing full well that this behaviour will get us to places?

Reading up on why writers need social media has depressed me even more. I long for the days when all of us, writers or not, had that barrier, that wall, that protects us and the public from each other’s neuroses. This was what kept all of us sane.

Instead, these days, we are subjected to other people’s histrionics and melodramas on Facebook.

“I thought I was a friend but I can only love myself before anyone loves me.”

“Go ahead with your dinners sans me, I will spend the night alone with a book and some wine. Bliss is the night when one is by himself or herself.”

Social media reveals how bonkers some people are. It’s what you call the WTF moment.

As a writer, I mine whatever comes my way, to be used at a much later date, as content for my work. I have told myself that some of the things I witness on these platforms will stay there because it’s just too crazy.

Here’s another thing about social media that I do not understand: in­­stant friendships. Even odder, when you meet the person in real life, he does not even acknowledge you.

Worse still, when you decide to “un-friend” them, it’s all hell hath no fury like a Facebook friend scorned.

Twitter and Facebook allow us all to interact with an audience that comprises family, friends and business contacts. When the interaction is positive, miracles seem to happen. When it isn’t, even the most mature of us become wrecks.

Marketers and branding strategists tell us that we all need to harness the power of such tools well. How many of us are equipped to do so, and are we capable?

We are but human after all. Do the developers and creators of such platforms realise the monsters they have made of us?

Perhaps one approach we can all take is to not take social media seriously. It is just a tool, but it is not a formative and healthy way of forging friendships and discourse. Treat it like a Touch ’n Go card. We will all be saner for it.

> The writer is working on a book on socio-religious histories and personalities. Overly emotional people will not be included in it. Frankly, they should be shipped to a remote island where they can cannibalise each other.


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