Social paranoia is the feeling you get when you hesitate before posting an update. It’s the feeling you get on a Saturday morning after drunkenly texting your ex the night before. The feeling you get when your friends won’t stop posting about their perfect lives, making your own life look boring in comparison.
And I should know – I wrote the book about it.
We’re at one of this points in history at which everything changes, like when the Gutenberg press was built and books (and other printed material) became available to the masses. Or like the industrial revolution, the invention of the telephone or the widespread adoption of the television.
I’m talking, of course, about social media, and about the inevitable growth of new technologies. Our modern lives are ruled by gizmos, gadgets and the internet more than ever before, which is why the average smartphone user checks their device 150 times per day.
But with the growth of social networking and these new ways of communicating, a whole host of new problems have cropped up and we’re still learning to deal with them as a society. The issue of copyright and internet piracy, for example, was never an issue at all until fifteen years or so ago, and it’s taken that long for our laws to change and for companies like Spotify and Netflix to find a way to get around the problem.
Social paranoia, then, is a real issue which affects us all to some degree, and it’s easy to see why. Social media is a huge part of our life, and we hear stories every day about its downsides, from Kim Kardashian’s Instagram photos being blamed for the armed robbery that targeted her in Paris to Jackass star Ryan Dunne getting hacked on Twitter and posting a series of inappropriate messages, despite the fact that he died in a car accident several years ago.
Anybody can accidentally become a meme or unwittingly star in a viral video, these days, and it’s not always a good thing. If you’ve been around since the early days of the net then you probably saw Star Wars Kid. His name is Ghyslain Raza, and he starred in one of the earliest examples of a viral video after filming himself swinging a golf ball retriever around like a lightsabre. He never intended for the tape to go public, but it was discovered by some schoolfriends who digitised it and distributed it online. Raza said that he was a victim of cyberbullying due to the number attracting a number of negative comments, and he’s since used it to speak out against bullies and cyberbullies.
Bullies can also be a problem on sites like Ask.Fm, where users are able to post anonymous comments. In fact, there have been a number of cases in which teenagers have committed suicide after being on the receiving end of negative comments and cyberbullying on the site.
I could go on and on, but that’s what the book is for. But what I will say, though, is that social networking and new technologies have their upsides – after all, it brings a world of information to your fingertips, and it also makes it easy to stay up-to-date with your friends and family, as well as with the rest of the world.
The key is to use a little common sense, and to remember that there’s a real world out there beyond your smartphones. Spend a little time in that, and if you do decide to play Pokemon Go while you’re at it then make sure you don’t walk off the edge of a cliff or get robbed of your devices.
After all, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that no-one’s out to get you.
Article written by Dane Cobain, an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning.