In our day and age, global interaction and ease of communication are at their all-time peak, and it is plausible that they will only increase. However, one might come to realize that there is no shortage of half-truths and unnecessary information in the minds of the people, occupying the space that could be better used to combat the struggles humanity faces. This could be linked to the bloating of the main network of communication on Earth, the Internet.
Of course, it could be argued that people have the freedom to think and care about whatever they wish. As much as people believing in things that aren’t correct or caring about insignificant things may harm our society, attempts at changing their minds would prove futile. Then, what about those who—seemingly—care about the well-being of society?
This piece will focus mainly on Western society for convenience.
Occupy Wall Street
In September 2011, a crowd of people gathered in Wall Street to protest the social and economic inequality, greed, corruption perpetuated by big corporations and their unnecessary political influence.
These gatherings did reach some success, as one of the major goals, increasing minimum wage to 15 dollars, was reached. Even if not on a federal level, many states did increase the minimum wage.
Still, in 2022, it would be considered childish by many to believe that the world’s corporations don’t have a massive, unprecedented and unacceptable amount of power. Then why isn’t this discussion still being had now, at least not on the scale of 10 years ago?
The Death of George Floyd
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed in police custody. We all know the massive wildfire of protests, looting, outcry and socio-political debate born from the spark of his death.
The people who followed the events following his death would also be familiar with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; a legislation aimed at avoiding a similar situation in the future, combating police misconduct, racial-religious bias/profiling and the usage of excessive force in policing which passed the Senate and was integrated into the Government, right?
In fact, the act never passed. It was blocked in 2020 as it could not get enough votes in the Senate, and when it was reintroduced in February 24th, 2021, it still failed to pass and collapsed in September 2021, preventing any kind of meaningful police reform.
Surprisingly (or not), most people who are aware of the events regarding George Floyd’s death don’t know about these particular events.
Keeping in mind that the whole reason any kind of investigation and legal action against the murderer of George Floyd happened in the first place was because of public outcry and the fact that by 2021, conversation on George Floyd had died down, it is reasonable to assume that the public’s lost attention on the topic contributed to the failure of the passage of the bill.
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
In the beginning of 2022, the Russo-Ukrainian War escalated, and Russia launched an invasion on Ukraine. The invasion has lasted for 7 months and still continues.
Thousands of civilians, children and soldiers alike have been killed, tortured, maimed; there has been tremendous economic loss since the beginning of the invasion and there is no indication that it will end any time soon.
Media coverage of the atrocities committed was very high near the beginning of the invasion, but it seems the world’s attention towards the ongoing incident has diminished.
The Common Denominator
In the three given examples, each problem has failed to be resolved. Quite simply, this is because the general population has stopped caring or has completely forgotten about it.
Society has forgotten about these problems, and in doing so, has condemned and deemed “worthless” those affected by them.
Why Does This Happen?
The logical conclusion is that this is linked to the influence of social media and the characteristics of its average user.
The overwhelming majority of users on social media suffer from having short attention spans and craving acceptance, praise and attention from others. This leads to people resorting to virtue signaling and focusing mostly on top trends and controversies. As people lose attention and interest in a topic, a cascading effect occurs, which ultimately leads to the complete abandonment of the issue. In other words, the rate at which trends and subjects lose attention is augmented.
These “symptoms,” paired with social media’s hold on society, result in what we see has happened with the three events above.
All in all, social media’s massive influence on societal issues and commentary, paired with its user base which is unfit to wield it, results in massive consequences, with seemingly no simple solution.
If not solved with haste, this unapparent, self-manifesting and dangerous problem could have serious consequences in the future, even if we pretend it hasn’t already affected who knows how many things for the worst.
The most terrifying thought concerning this societal phenomenon, though, is the fact that this is not a plot or a conspiracy by any group or person. It is a simple result of that which humanity has set up for itself. There is no one to blame, no one to bargain with and no one to seek a solution from.