Social Media Overload

The way information flies at us is now unprecedented. Masses comes our way, and we “gulp” down lots. But it’s hard to know how much we honestly can process.

Moreover, social media conveys a happy impression that we all live, more or less, in the same “space” – if not precisely the same geographic place. We’re seemingly required as well to have opinions on just about everything happening, and everywhere. And we have to have them immediately.

Free Stock Photo: A beautiful Chinese girl sitting tired at a desk.
Free Stock Photo: A beautiful Chinese girl sitting tired at a desk.

You find yourself worn out now and then? I do. This weekend was one of those times.

Saturday morning, one of my Twitter lists had displayed this. All at the same time. Seriously:

Screen capture of my Twitter.
Screen capture of my Twitter.

Please, no, I can’t. I’m barely conscious. Too much. I need at least a coffee first.

About the same time, I read elsewhere that it had been revealed (or, more specifically, it appears someone found home movie footage from 1933 and gave it to a major UK newspaper) that at around age 7 the future Queen did a Nazi salute at the instigation of her uncle, who would briefly be King Edward VIII before abdicating in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Your reaction to that? You must have one! Right now!

Uh, clearly that was not a good thing she did, but I’m not….

Moving right along. No time to think. Also Saturday, American billionaire (and now presidential aspirant) Donald Trump, having disparaged 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s military service, was all over the news. When that “broke,” it was pretty late here in Britain – after 10 pm. I’d discovered something “big” was “up” when my Twitter timeline was suddenly full of “yelling” emanating from the general direction of the United States.

It was exhausting. Yet as I held my iPad and scrolled down seeing the multitude of reactions and opinions to Trump, there happened not to be a noise here in the house, and it was tranquil outside in the street as well. It was a weird sensation.

Feeling “overwhelmed” is not new to us in 2015, of course. But while re-reading Passports, what struck me is what has changed in the last generation: it’s interactive and on our personal devices in our laps on the sofa, on the beach, on the train, in bed, at the dinner table, etc. Yes, we can turn it off for a while, but that may only mean lots is awaiting us on our return, overloading us then, in a sense, even more. So it never really goes away.

Be honest: the first thing you do upon waking up is check your phone, right? 😉

In comparison, twenty years ago, it was mostly on a television or radio in the lounge or kitchen, and was almost entirely a “one-way” street – broadcaster to us. We could far more easily turn it off. There were times we found ourselves pressed for opinions, yes, but that occurred mostly in spurts, and – importantly – usually happened in person. For instance, we might have been questioned when venturing somewhere thousands of miles away:

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

“Yes, excuse me, too. I need a brandy” …. or two or three. Pleeeeeease.

Excerpt from
Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle.

Oh, boy, I have no idea. What do I say? Uh, I know: “Another brandy please.” Yes, I know that’ll be the fourth at least. They can scrape me off the floor later.

Time hasn’t changed one thing: we can’t know, or have informed opinions on everything. That doesn’t make you an ignoramus, just human. Sometimes, it’s okay to say, “Let me think on that and get back to you,” or even, “Uh, I don’t know.”

Happy [grumble, grumble] Monday. 🙂

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.