NPR logo A Hypercritical Take On Social Networks

A Hypercritical Take On Social Networks

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a pattern in regard to how users of social networking sites express themselves online. There seems to be a fine line between people intentionally expressing their thoughts for the sake of doing so and expressing their thoughts with an "audience" in mind. On sites such as Tumblr, any user can gain followers (just like on Twitter) for a multitude of reasons.

For one reason or another, someone out there is interested in what's going on in your mind. Let's say you've expressed your thoughts on the Chicago handgun case. If your comment receives [positive] recognition (especially from complete strangers), chances are you'll repeat the formula — that immediate sense of euphoria is there. You have created a fanbase, as such. But what if your followers disapprove of your soapbox, choose not to leave their thoughts, and/or stop follwoing you? A myriad of feelings running through your mind and body, I suppose.

During an interview with The Guardian, Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln College in Oxford, goes on to address my issue with attention:

"Social networking sites can provide "constant reassurance – that you are listened to, recognised, and important". Greenfield continued. This was coupled with a distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation, which were "far more perilous … occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses" and "require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones, those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously".

We may not all be experts on the topics. And maybe some of us don't disseminate all our thoughts online, for fear of repercussions. Whatever the case, being hypercritical of our musings on social networks wouldn't be such a bad idea. Then again, it all depends on how we percieve ourselves:

"It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations. We know that the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to the outside world."