OPINION: Social media is Absolutely Fabulous. What's not to like?
I'm a massive Absolutely Fabulous fan. I used to sneak into the lounge (where the second TV was housed) after bedtime and watch it using only my peripheral vision because my ear was propped up against the speaker so that I could actually hear something. Having grown up in a pretty strict household, bedtime was taken really seriously. I'm a professional at counting sheep. Anyway, watching TV after the_ Egoli_ episode finished that evening was totally not allowed.
I purchased all the seasons on DVD as soon as I could and have since probably re-watched it at least 30 times. Quiz me. I will tell you the most random crap ever. I know what shoes Patsy was wearing when she was shoved into the back of a Smart car. I recall how Eddie and Patsy paged through a tabloid and described the side boob of one of the Kardashians as not a boob, but just another Kardashian (because they're just f***ing popping out everywhere. Everywhere you look there's a new Kardashian).
One of my best memories though - and something that sticks with me for personal reasons, which I will explain soon - is the phrase Eddie uses to describe herself in the Paralox episode. It's the dawn of digital platforms and Eddie, a pseudo-PR professional, is forced to take on a multi-format converged business model in order to be successful and keep up. It's funny because it's a satirical take on the stupidity of that kind of ambition and trendiness. Eddie has a website, she can work from home because of a webcam (obviously unsuccessfully) and she is soon to branch out into the broadcasting business as well. Synergy. Not unlike your local breed of hipster today.
She describes herself as Eddie Pie Hands - a comic reference to Edward Scissor hands, she has her fingers in lots of pies. But we're also presented with a read-between-the-lines situation of cerebral comic genius - She is a Jack of all trades, master of none. In Eddie's case, a joker of all trades, I guess.
I can relate to Eddie. Like her I am definitely a Jack/Joker of a lot of trades, master of absolutely (fabulously) none. I think I'm good at writing, but it sounds a bit arrogant to say that, it also sounds like a totally subjective bullsh*t opinion. I'm okay with that.
Call me a horrible human being and you're going to be dealing with someone who will probably hop onto the Titanic and put the iceberg in front of it myself. As in, I will be unable to can (unable to deal with that). Even though I obviously sometimes am. But unlike Eddie, I don't expect anyone to tell me I'm good at anything I do - I mean, naturally it is nice when it does happen. I probably get more criticism and insult thrown my way than anything else and besides the fact that I have accepted that humans are kak, I also just don't care because I'm okay with being seen as kak as well. This is not normal I know.
A lot of people need to and should be recognised for their work. They are probably less kak. But why do we care what people think anyway? If you know yourself, you know, you know?
Writer Alain de Botton describes this need and reaction to recognition as the emotional struggle we face when our desire to "climb the social ladder" is not met and how the opinions of others on our perceived status affects our mental wellbeing.
In other words, we're pretty much obsessed with what people think about us.
In the context of social media, this psychological scuffle is almost too real. We're constantly trying to climb the status update ladder and get "likes" because this means that we are loved, our self-imposed expectations of our societal standing are met, we feel loved, wanted and needed among other things.
Let's assume that as in real life, the philosophical belief on social media is egalitarian. Every user is equal and entitled to posting a piece of their mind. Ideal. But if that's true, then the right and opportunity for castigation is equal opportunity as well - whether we dish it out or receive it. Not so ideal.
Like Eddie, our feeds do allow us to have our fingers in lots of pies.
We're all film directors, art curators, historians, philosophers, poets, political analysts and revolutionaries. I even came across someone once who literally described herself as a social media specialist who deals with conflict and resolution on digital communities in relation to societal differences. A peace and reconciliation agony aunt/comment moderator/comment analyst so to speak.
We've become practicing idiots. Nothing is factual. Everything is drinking from the Google holy grail (sometimes, and hopefully - at best). In most cases we subscribe to the belief that intelligence occurs through some kind of cognitive osmosis.
Most of us are jokers of all trades, masters of none. And even when we post from a legitimately educated point of departure, we're still not masters of overcoming social anxiety. We count our "likes". We read our comments. We take things seriously because it must mean something.
It really doesn't. But it is kind of cool when a stranger calls me a lovely human being for just existing. Even they know nothing about me. It makes me feel totally vindicated and well, absolutely fabulous. So I guess the same must apply to every other comment as well then.
_Haji Mohamed Dawjee is employed by Code For Africa at the head office in Cape Town as programme manager for impactAFRICA - the continent's largest fund for digital-driven data storytelling. She is a regular commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment. Follow her on Twitter: @sageofabsurd _