Anthropology Case Study on Social Media: Utopia or Dystopia?

In modern society, everyone seems to be entangled or involved to some extent with virtual communities. The biggest question in this regard has been whether these virtual communities (social media) are becoming the utopia traversing cultures and borders or whether they are turning into something sinister (becoming the dystopia). To understand whether social media is has become a utopia or dystopia, it is important to understand the meaning of the two terms. Utopia refers to an imagined society or community possessing desirable or almost perfect qualities for its people. Ruth argues that utopia is when one expresses the desire for a better way of being (290). From these definitions, it can be seen that utopia points toward a perfect society with no suffering or challenges. A perfect example of a utopian society is the Garden of Eden discussed in the Holy Bible. Contrarily, dystopia refers to an imagined society or state where great injustice or suffering is experienced by its citizens. A dystopian society is characterized by environmental disasters, totalitarianism, tyrannical governments, dehumanization, and other characteristics that are associated with a society that is on the decline. With these perspectives in mind, it can be seen that social media is more inclined to dystopia than utopia.

Since the inception of social media some years ago, it has been beneficial to humans particularly from the perspective of communication and development of relationships. There are cases of people who have developed good relationships from nothing with people far away or not in any way related to them. People around the world are in constant contact with one another and are not compelled to leave their homes or spend a dime, thanks to the power of social media. There is no doubt that modern society’s connection is largely through social media. Unfortunately, the use of social media today is not only excessive but also scary. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others have turned humans into zombies. In this case, there is no point of humans being afraid of the zombie apocalypse when they are already zombies themselves. Face-to-face interactions among people has significantly reduced as people prefer to use social media for interaction with the argument that it is easier (Webber). People no longer acknowledge or recognize how important meaningful relationships that are created in person are. Social media relationships lack human interactions, and thus, they are fake and involve every negative prospect from pedophiles to cyber bullies. Th us creates a society whose members are under continuous suffering. Also, the interactions taking place on social media platforms are usually under the close watch of the websites, and this constant watch and lack of privacy is dehumanizing and completely uncalled for. The dehumanization caused by social media has since contributed what is referred to as dystopia.

In addition to the interaction aspect, a section of social media users uses the platforms as tools to torment and humiliate others. Annually, there are thousands of cases of people who resolve to commit suicide because of the torment, humiliation, and bullying they are subjected to on social media. The issue of bullying is becoming rampant and it is a demonstration that social media is a seed of dystopia that has been allowed to grow in society today. This is worsened by the fact that the websites constantly watch users but cannot get rid of users who strive to torment, humiliate, and bully others.  It is even sickening that websites keep a track of and record everything that people do online. The interactions that people enjoy on social media cannot take place without being watched. It implies that humans have moved from a traditional free society to a society where they are under constant supervision and where they cannot enjoy their privacy. Many social media platforms convey the message that they are committed to upholding the freedom of users. The websites tend to make updates to make users feel like they are in a free land and have all the freedom to post anything they would want to. The question is whether users are really free in the long run. The websites often introduce users to settings that do not allow other users to see what they post. However, user’s information is usually in the open in the long run. In fact, states usually have access to everything people do online as illustrated in cases where states arrest social media users for attacks on governments or specific politicians (Gerds and Chan 586). In the real sense, social media users should have the right to privacy and not have to live in fear that their information on social media can be leaked to state authorities. The destruction of human privacy and the totalitarianism exhibited by state authorities through the help of social media companies shows that we live in a dystopian society.

Issues of identity crisis are on the rise, and this clearly reflects social media is contributing or leading to dystopia. Although the platforms have revolutionized communication and interaction among people, they are largely isolating media that lead to loneliness and less social interaction between users and their family members or friends (Roesler-Keilholz 611). The decreased social interaction can be largely attributed to the element of social media addiction.  The current evolution of the internet, technological growth and development, as well as the growth in the amount of time people spend on the internet has triggered this concern. Social media addiction is characterized by the loss of control, flickering eyes, chattering hands, and withdrawal syndromes. Social media addicts, mostly the young generation, use the platforms as a route to escape from the realities of the world (Roesler-Keilholz 611). In most cases, this causes social isolation that contributes to identity crisis in the long run. A society where many people have to deal with the problem of identity crisis can be described as a dystopian society.

Despite its benefits to users, social media majorly contributes or leads humans to a dystopian society. The use of social media today is both scary and excessive. It has significantly reduced face-to-face interactions among humans and people no longer acknowledge or recognize how important meaningful relationships created in person are. There is a high level of dehumanization caused by the constant watch by the websites and the lack of privacy. Social media users are face endless suffering as a result of the torment, humiliation, and bullying they are subjected to. This is in addition to the totalitarianism exhibited by state authorities through the help of social media companies. There are several cases of social media users who are arrested by states for attacking the state or specific politicians. Moreover, issues or identity crisis are on the rise with most of these being attributed to the influence of social media. All these prospects point to a dystopian society of endless suffering where people cannot enjoy their privacy, freedom, or interact in person.

 

 

Works Cited

Gerds, Aaron T., and Teresa Chan. “Social Media in Hematology in 2017: Dystopia, Utopia, or Somewhere In-between?.” Current hematologic malignancy reports 12.6 (2017): 582-591., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29064027

Levitas, Ruth. “Looking for the blue: The necessity of utopia.” Journal of Political Ideologies 12.3 (2007): 289-306.

Roesler-Keilholz, Silke. “Utopia/Dystopia–Identity and Connectivity in Social Media.” Journalism 6.10 (2016): 607-614., https://www.davidpublisher.com/Public/uploads/Contribute/581c3818743dd.pdf

Webber, Jordan Erica. “Digital Dystopia: Democracy in the Internet Age – Podcast.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Jan. 2018, www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2018/jan/26/digital-dystopia-democracy-technology-harm-podcast.