Nowadays one would be hard pressed to say that the use of social media is the exception; I am more inclined to say that it is the norm. When we make the acquaintance of someone who does not utilize social media in some way shape or form, it is seen as unusual; or in some cases, it can be interpreted as a principled stand against technology replacing the more traditional forms of human interaction i.e.; face to face interaction(s).
According to statistics from Statistic Brain, the use of social media may not be as far reaching as one may think, but it is significant nonetheless. Based on data from a poll taken in November 2012, 56% of people acknowledge having a profile set up in the realm of social media. Doing a deeper dive into the numbers of the two most popular social media havens, Facebook has 1.15 billion users, while Twitter has a paltry 500 million users.
It is my contention that the use of social media goes hand in hand with the increasing lack of Cognitive dissonance among many users; the theory of Cognitive dissonance was developed by Dr. Leon Festinger in the 1950’s. This theory suggests that we (human beings) harbor a desire to keep our attitudes and beliefs in check in an effort to avoid disharmony.
In a nutshell, Cognitive dissonance is that feeling of discomfort as a result of holding two conflicting beliefs, when this comes to pass something must change in order to eliminate the dissonance.
When Anthony Weiner announced his candidacy for Mayor of New York City, I assumed that he was emboldened by the redemption that other politicians have been on the receiving end of when they were caught in transgressions that paled in comparison to his social media “promiscuity”.
As it became apparent that he continued his social media dalliances; even after his resignation from Congress using the moniker of “Carlos Danger”, I started thinking about how social media allows many users to live under the confines of anonymity, essentially being free of the burden that Cognitive dissonance affords. Where adopting an alter ego to engage in behaviors, commentary and actions that they wouldn’t dream of doing in a public sphere can be done in a blink of an eye.
By assuming his alter-ego “Carlos Danger” did Weiner subconsciously dodge the cognitive dissonance that he would have otherwise felt by doing it under his real name? After all, maybe his logic was that if he did it as “Carlos Danger” that it doesn’t count; hence no conflict from doing what would otherwise be considered bad behavior.
Is this a justifiable explanation of his actions?
Is social media the cause?
Or is it a symptom of the greater disconnect that technology and social media by extension affords us?
Being connected to one another via social media, Skype and the like is second nature for many of us. So, is it the contention that (no harm no foul) because there isn’t that conventional form of face to face human connection in play, that it isn’t real?
This is a theme that was cleverly touched on in the laminated Disney movie Wall-E, remember the people on the Axiom? They got everything that they needed with a mere touch of a button; they never had any desire for personal communication. Is this the slippery slope that we are headed down?
Or maybe it is just a case of my over thinking a news headline that is cut and dry… That Anthony Weiner is… A pervert or at very least the run of the mill weenie?