“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”
Neil Postman’s observation has only proven to be more relevant as time goes on. We have replaced talking with entertainment, which means that intimate friendships have also been replaced for status and clout. I can imagine that it has been happening for quite some time and it has much to do with the way that media has so greatly impressed itself on us and our perspective on the world. Entertainment, however pure the motivation, tends to be focused more opportunistically. The internet has become a medium for this entertainment and we have become the entertainers. We have made ourselves a product that we can market to friends, family and strangers and receive immediate feedback. This feedback then tends to define who we are as people and measure our overall significance.
Our social status remained relatively equal before social media. We were all ordinary people, some rich and some poor, and in a completely separate category, there were celebrities. The internet has made it possible for just about anyone to become an internet celebrity—it has even become a normative goal. This goal is what we end up putting our time and energy in—not in the lives of other people out of benevolence.
Imagine if this medium (the internet world) completely disappeared—how would we measure our significance or our influence in the world?
Would we still be the selfish people we are today? Most likely, although there would no longer be a global platform to encourage and cultivate this unfortunate frailty.