Social Media is a Hell of a Drug

Forget cocaine, Rick James, social media is a hell of a drug.

If you’ve ever written in 140 characters, posted on a wall or racked your brain on how to fit a rectangular picture into a square box, you know the power this medium can have over you.

It sends normal human beings in search of an elusive celebrity status — no pun intended — and attention that can’t be found on a street corner, around the dinner table or in an office cubicle. Everyone is looking to catch lightning in a bottle and find fame from their stream of consciousness.

I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we all have. And if you say you haven’t, you either aren’t up on technology or are very good at lying to yourself.

It’s all part of what I like to call the “Real World Effect” that MTV so kindly ushered upon us. The second the network unleashed the idea of “reality television” on the world, the floodgates opened. Everything has become entertainment no matter how personal. What once was private is now a public fodder for the masses. A computer in the world’s collective pocket and a camera at everyone’s disposal at a moments notice has ensured that people now think they’re Edward R. Murrow and their life holds the key to the top story on the CBS Evening News.

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t be completely against social media. It is a medium that provides a great deal of breaking news and coverage that conventional media could never provide (See: Boston Marathon Bombing). It’s a place where new and talented entertainers have emerged and been able to thrive. And it’s a place where people can develop their own voice, be discovered and find a way to make a living when they couldn’t have a decade ago.

But like with most things, there is a dark side. A side where the power of sharing proves that certain people aren’t all that caring. This past week has proved it better than anything.

Take Just Justine Sacco, a PR executive who didn’t realize that a tweet can travel the world faster than a plane can. She tweeted a racist comment about a trip to Africa from the airport and by the time she landed she was infamous and jobless.

Or how about the fact that a guy known for selling duck hunting gear and having a long beard shaped the national discussion based on a fight with his employer. Without social media, that just wouldn’t happen.

People have said stupid things for eons but the “Real World Effect” has made all of it visible for public consumption.

It even happens in Arizona sports. Darnell Dockett has used social media to prove he is either this generation’s Andy Kaufman — highly unlikely — or someone who doesn’t have a filter. From live streaming himself getting out of the shower to off color comments, he’s cornered the market on poor social media decisions. And now, you can add to the list offending people of Asian descent last week.

Want more? How about a Washington state politician calling the entire state of Arizona a “desert racist wasteland” after his hometown team lost to the Cardinals? (Granted, the tweet above doesn’t exactly prove him wrong.)

Are we racists, narcissists, weirdos or self-consumed? I’m not sure, but it seems like all we have to do to find out is check one’s Twitter stream, Facebook wall or Instagram posts. Because in today’s world it’s not what a man does in the dark that shows his true nature, it’s what he does when he forgets the fact that everyone is watching.