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The Price of Going Viral

A while ago, a friend of mine forwarded, in a Whatsapp group, a video of a man lying on the floor, foam seeping through his mouth, begging his wife (the one shooting the video) to save him as he lay dying.

Fast forward, months later, I have seen videos of couples beating each other to a pulp, a husband exposing his wife for the whore she is, and an ex-lover spilling the beans for the world to gobble up.

You would think that all this is fake news, wouldn't you? Regrettably, we see this every single day on social media, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of society we have become.

Granted, having access to platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have opened doors for many, myself included. Not only have these spaces become a place to unwind, air one’s views, share knowledge, and experiences and gain inspiration and insight into the world at large, but they have also introduced us to people we would not otherwise meet in real life. Long lost friends have been reunited while blessing some with new ones. I have even witnessed a marriage or two that started on social media. And for burgeoning creators and hustlers, social media offers a marketing platform while broadening one’s horizon. Indeed, social media has provided an opportunity for all of us to be discovered.

§ As every honest, adept social media user will tell you, there is something soul-stirring about seeing the number of views for your video, blog or post soar. Of seeing that ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘retweet’ and ‘comment’ notification pop up on your screen. A chemical called dopamine is released into the body, and we can’t help but feel a surge of pleasure that comes with it.

§ Humans, as we know, are gregarious creatures. With that comes the occasional craving for validation. We revel in knowing that our selfies, motivational messages and videos are well-received and that we have secured our little tribe. That community that gets us and embraces our so-called brand. Also, what’s not to like about following someone’s journey to Timbuktu, watching videos of them rescuing a cat, and men and women surprising their girlfriends and boyfriends with marriage proposals? I mean, these are the things that make the world go round, right?

Beautiful things happen when we embrace our uniqueness and bless the world with our gifts and talents, showcasing what we bring to the table. Social media has made this dream even more accessible to most of us.

However, I've noticed an eerie trend unfolding during my years of scrolling. A much dark side of social media that drives us to sacrifice our humanity and dignity for instant gratification and clout. No doubt, we all want to be heard and seen, but at what cost?

What is it that makes us forget that behind those heavily filtered faces we see on social media are real people with feelings? People who are also prone to succumb to a mental breakdown. People who hurt the same way you do. So why all the thoughtless comments? Why make a whole video celebrating a person's demise?

The problem with dopamine is that it is addictive, which means we must continuously seek the same level of attention to remain satisfied and sane. It is no longer about seeking our hearts and doing what's right. It’s about how big a tribe can I pull by doing this?

Unfortunately, for some of us, that means resorting to deprave means to gain popularity. There are pitfalls: Our hearts have become somewhat hardened, and we become immune to human suffering. For example, we would rather stand in a crowd, hide behind a camera, or act aloof while recording a painful incident instead of coming to the rescue. I get it - we all want our fifteen minutes of fame, but I ask once again - at what cost? Why is it no longer enough to do a good deed in secret and still be satisfied?

§ The so-called ghost accounts allow people to go incognito and settle scores. Information shared in confidence is posted needlessly, giving little regard to the consequences. We seem to no longer know how to confront issues in person and resolve conflicts behind closed doors. Instead, we seek justice by airing our dirty laundry in public. How many of us spare a thought for the son, daughter, mother, father, and family of those whose lives are ruined after we've logged out?

§ No thanks to technology, we have mastered the art of doctoring images to name and shame and seek revenge. Unfortunately, this lack of regard for humanity and integrity has been the cause of many a suicide. § Need I remind you of the terrorists who showcase their work on social media?

I once read an article that claims inhumanity has always been ingrained in us and that social media has just brought things to light. That may be true, but now that we know the devastation thoughtless use of social media use causes, isn’t it time to work towards curbing the problem and reclaiming our humanity?

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