Social Media, the End of Living?

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. - Morpheus

My roommate Pierce went to a Wilco concert here in Memphis last Saturday. At the concert, Wilco's lead singer asked the audience not to film. Then he added these remarks (ironically posted on youtube):

My roommate Pat got a job recently. At his job he researches social media. He reads books on social media. He tries to improve his twitter ranking.
To do this he has downloaded a program called "Tweedeck."

I downloaded Tweetdeck. Suddenly every few seconds my laptop would beep and a tiny little black and red box would tell me that one of my friends had a new status update
or tweet.
So I wonder what is the real cost of social media?
Why do I need to know what 1,000 people are doing today?
Why do I care if other people know what I am doing right now?
I've blogged about this before.
But my mind keeps coming back to it.
I can't help but wonder: what are we doing to ourselves?
"Addiction, neurologists say, changes the physical shape of our brains. Each time... another text message, another headline, another update, my brain injects a little dopamine into a reward pathway. 'You’ve got mail!' squeals the computer and—whoosh!—here comes a shot of dopamine...WHAT IF, while you read the last few paragraphs, something in the world has changed? What if, during the past five minutes, someone, somewhere, sent you a text? Shouldn’t you go and check?"

We weren't always like this. We didn't always have to document every moment of our waking lives. People used to just live.
We used to have cameras, but cameras were difficult enough and expensive enough that we only used them on special occasions like family vacations and weddings.
Then came digital cameras, the internet, cell-phones, cell-phone cameras, and of course the real catalysts for the way we now live, or don't live, our lives: myspace, youtube, facebook, and twitter.
And at some point I actually found myself playing farmville, a game where I pretend to maintain a farm. Why? I don't fucking know. Everyone else was doing it?
The crazy thing about farmville is that my parents have a farm, and so do my grandparents. But those are real farms. Farms that grew real plants and real trees. Farms where people put in real work, real sweat, and real blood and tears.
What is social media doing to us? What has it done to me?
I'm going to be taking another break for a while- not deleting my accounts this time, but not checking them either. If you need to contact me, please e-mail me at austin.maness@memphis.edu or call me.

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