The slow descent into social media's superficiality

I think I know why social media is good for everyone. I just think I do, but don't really.

Besides being a vehicle for sparking Arab Springs, social media is first with the news and enhances your brand if you're a journalist, editor, social commentator or political analyst. In fact if you're none of these you can now become one, just have a couple of views, handy. You can promote your book, if you've written one, and can feed traffic to your news organisation's site and get many "likes", which will feed the good old ego. Then of course there's the "engagement", "robust debate", "participation" - ultimately all good for democracy. On Facebook you can even send pictures of yourself on holiday and friends from your past can find you.

I've read about the fact that social media is great - in academic and other treatises - and because I'm not an active participant I've been scolded and told admonishingly how great it all is, ad nauseum. I haven't seen all the democracy in action in South Africa though. To my mind it's very much about the likeminded affirming the views of the likeminded. Nothing wrong with that I guess. Affirmation is surely a positive thing.But what I'm struck by is encapsulated by these four words: superficiality, banality, competitiveness and viciousness. Sometimes just banal and stupid impulsivity. What on earth drove one leader of the official opposition to take a picture of her big toe, bitten by a rat, and post it on twitter? And then say something like: Yes, I know I need a pedi. I remain bemused and astonished. If she's seeking attention she got the attention she deserved, didn't she?

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