Fascinated with ourselves?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Among our unending conversations about social media – its effect on our social relations, on our abilities to communicate in an intimate way, to learn and retain, all that! – among them all, one comment worth considering is that social media emphasizes the fascination we have … with ourselves. 

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

Among our unending conversations about social media – its effect on our social relations, on our abilities to communicate in an intimate way, to learn and retain, all that! – among them all, one comment worth considering is that social media emphasizes the fascination we have … with ourselves. 
We have real-time conversations, multiple feedback – often with people we barely know, not to mention every group or business advertising with a cell phone.  All this demonstrates social media’s incredible, unstoppable fascination with all things “human” (including pets, pet-peeves, and our species’ petulance toward any inconvenience or impediment placed in our way by natural things).  Even the passage of time aggravates us!  Mark Twain today would have a field day observing our social-media dependencies.
Probably the second most widespread comments are our complaints about social media’s negative, nasty and hurtful uses, the phenomena of the Trolls, of shaming and bullying. Rumours and fakery? – no matter, anything about other humans grabs our attention.
The trolls have emerged from under their boulders, loving today’s booming industry of nastiness and manipulation. And as long as they report about other people, we’re their audience.  For every helpful exposé by bloggers, we’re flooded by the deliberately harmful.  And just as “guns don’t kill people … ”, likewise with social media platforms.  Social media destruction isn’t always obvious, and the corporate heads respond with “Who cares?  The fact that Humans love to be stamped can’t be blamed on us.”
Maybe we are and maybe we aren’t two-legged lemmings, but, like a lot of our species’ bad behaviour, no one seems able to do anything about it. Facebook promises everything the regulators want to hear, then continues with what enriches the corporation.  Who shuts down their own Facebook or Twitter accounts?  Why blame these corporations; where’s their gun over our heads?  “It’s a cost of being connected,” we say, “just a sec, I gotta see my neighbour’s new pool photos …”
As amused as Twain might be today (although his incarnation into Kurt Vonnegut decades ago was not entirely amused), our fascination and focus on
ourselves deserves some focus of its own.
That focus might be from the point of view of everything else around us. Everything else that is not human – the beings, just as unique to Earth as are we, with whom we share this rocky planet – including the rocky planet itself, the environment.  Not “our” environment, just the environment.  Yes, historical texts instruct us that this planet and – everything – is for our use, period.  There’s the origin of most human xenophobias and it flows on to today’s untouchable consumerist rights to use everything and throw it away.  There is a story, a fantasy, elsewhere in this edition, “The Last Tree”, a dark parable for Christmas that addresses this subject with much more subtlety.
All to say, maybe during Christmas it’s time to stop expecting our economy will provide another festival of consumerism, and seek a vision slightly more grand and more realistic: ask what are our own long-lasting Christmas gifts, the gifts we give to our planet and all those around us who play a crucial role in the web of life.
Our single species standing alone, victorious in self-interest, is not a web of life. Any single species, even with a screen in every hand, is not sustainable. Fascinated with ourselves, bah oui!, but our individual and our collective existence cannot persist as part of the web of life … if there is no web.
Not much exists in a vacuum, isn’t that a science lesson from grade school?  So how will  humanity continue if all we can envision are our needs and our pleasures?  Can fascination with ourselves really provide sustenance?  The web (from 2.5 km beneath the Earth’s crust to some million light-years above us) is what births and sustains us. Isn’t there fascination aplenty to be found there? And thereby we could gain a future?
In terms of gifts, we receive a huge one from the planet and web within which we exist. What’s ours in return?