Whether you spend the majority of your time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or some combination of them all, the world of social media is an interesting place.
It's a world where a woman laughing in a Chewbacca mask can go from ordinary mom to global phenomenon overnight, and a place where saying the wrong thing can earn you more backlash than you can handle in mere minutes.
How is this possible? While some of the success enjoyed by the various platforms can be accredited to their design and infrastructure, the majority is fuelled by us, the users. We are the ones who have become addicted to what they have enabled us all to gather and share, and we are the ones who can't seem to go even a day without them.
That being the case, we are therefore the ones responsible for a number of the (in my opinion) saddening trends emerging across the online landscape. Here is my list of 5 unfortunate online trends — in both video and written form — that we have all bought into and are keeping in place:
1. The Death Of Audio
To most of us, the idea of going back in time and being forced to watch television or films without sound seems like a terrible regression. Dialogue, sound effects, soundtracks, and everything else that the audible world has to offer all play an integral role in the viewing experience we've grown to love and expect.
Yet our behaviour on social media would seem to suggest otherwise. According to multiple publishers, 85% of Facebook video is watched without sound. While much of this can undoubtedly be attributed to the environments in which we often peruse our social media feeds (i.e. at work, where audio is not an option without consequences), the habit stretches outside of those situations surprisingly often.
We seem to have developed a commitment filter, fully dependent on being visually stimulated enough to even consider actually listening to what a video has to say. While content creators, including myself, have adjusted to this behaviour by including subtitles, let's not forget to engage our ears in the viewing experience to fully gauge whether or not it is something we want to 'like' or 'share.'
2. Put It In A List or We're Not Reading It
Before you jump down my throat for being a hypocrite — this article is a list, after all — hear me out. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, one of the main reasons you are here is because I decided to present it to you in this format.
A quick look through some of my best performing articles of all time (out of the over 350 I've written) makes one thing abundantly clear: nearly all of them feature lists. "9 Common Traits Of Happy People (That They Don't Talk About)," "8 Signs You're In A Relationship Worth Keeping," and "7 Things You Should Never Do On Social Media" have all generated hits in the hundreds of thousands, while the performance of many equally as valuable pieces of content not in list format paled in comparison.
Lists are great at delivering the key points concisely, but let's not forget to read between the headings. (Then again, who am I even writing this part for? You've already long moved on to numbers 3 through 5.)
3. Sex Sells
We've all seen it multiple times. Whether it be an article about gut health, a meme with an empowering quote, or, most common of all, a playlist of songs on YouTube, it always seems to have something "sexy" as the featured image.
It could be a shirtless and toned guy on the edge of a rock, a stunning young woman who manages to make depression look appealing, or just a female butt in underwear; all these and more regularly find their way into our social media experience. (Watch College Humor's hilarious take on this exact phenomenon HERE.)
Why is this the case? Because we click on it! While much of the content these images draw us toward is great, we should remember to give equal attention to things posted without the "eye candy."
4. Our Attention Spans Are Shrinking
According to Adweek, Snapchat is the fastest growing social network, well on pace to outperform many of the well-established heavy hitters in a short matter of time. To me, this perfectly represents one of saddest trends in our online usage: how short our attention spans have become.
Have we really become so unwilling to commit and connect with content that it needs to be delivered to us in 10 seconds or less?
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Snapchat as a platform; I've been intermittently using it (unsuccessfully) for months now, but I do worry about how it could be worsening an already troubling trend. Continue to have fun with it, but also be mindful of whether it is impacting your attention span in other areas of life.
5. We're Never Offline
In December of 2015, Time released an article stating that Americans collectively check their phones approximately 8 billion times per day, with the average user checking in on their device 46 times.
Those numbers alone are staggering enough, but they become even more alarming when we take into consideration the potential harm associated with EMFs coming from our phone, even when not in use.
And so this perpetual connection is the most worrisome trend of all. The world is too beautiful a place to be on, see, and discover to just vicariously experience it through our phones.