What’s the difference between “passion” and “psychosis?” Passion enables you to seek out the things that help you get things done. Psychosis drives you to see things that aren’t there, or to think in ways that are disconnected from reality.
A lot of people today are passionate about social media. And there’s good reason: These media are creating new ways of connecting and sharing and communicating. There’s also a lot of misunderstanding, though, about the nature, promises and limits of these technologies which indeed are reshaping the way we do things.
That’s expected: Anytime new technologies emerge, there is bound to be a lot of talk around them –- from intelligent discussion to nonsensical cacophony. Optimists evangelize and hype, while pessimists ignore and dismiss. And they often sneer at each other –- one is the stubborn status quo defender, the luddite. The other is the dangerous radical, the hipster.
I’m sure there was a monk in Germany in 1455 who scoffed at the idea of a mechanical scribe and proclaimed it a useless contraption. And I’m sure there was one who proclaimed that this mechanical scribe, this new media thing, would bring forth the Second Coming.
As it turned out, neither was on the mark. And yet, that one single “new media thing” did alter the course of history. It was a big deal. It was revolutionary. So much so, that to this day when we see the phrase The Book, an image of holiness rises out of Spiritus Mundi. The Book conjures Revelation and Second Coming.
But the revolution –- or revelation –- which the printing press enabled transpired over about 500 years.
Unlike the printing press, however, today’s technologies are bringing forth new technologies –- and this bringing forth is happening at vastly faster rates than the printing press. Whatever revolutions they are enabling won’t transpire over half a millenium –- they are happening over years, over months, over weeks, right now.
The Web -– the new “new thingy” –- is the Mother of other new thingies. The Web is a media-producing medium. It is a big deal. Not “Second Coming” big deal, but a big deal. So it’s easy to see why we now see so much hype, so much rush to fetishize social media, so much attention and theorizing and claiming.
In rapidly changing times, one of the dangers is that the loudest voices of emotion are the ones that are heard, drowning out the softer voices of reason. Or as one Irishman put it:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
But in times of upturning change, losing perspective of reality sends you off the pathway you must cross. I suspect many many companies and their agencies will chase after wild geese. That’s what psychosis will do to you: you’ll chase after things that aren’t there.
So beware social media psychosis. We’re social beings –- that’s been the case for aeons. Social media hasn’t of a sudden bequeathed some magical new feature of being human. Will it change how we are social. Probably. Could go good, could go bad –- most likely a mix of both.
If you’re psychotic, it’s probably hard for you to know that you are –- at least until you crash into a wall named Reality, which as Philip K. Dick defined:
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. – Philip K. Dick
But if you’re passionate –- and truly passionate about social media -– then you should have no fear in putting your understanding, assumptions and claims through the filter of reality checks.
Some of us have good guesses about what we can do with social media. Some of those guesses are born of passion for a better world. But none of us knows exactly where these technologies will take us. That form of gnosis would be called psychosis.
*This blog post was originally published at Phil Baumann*