Social media has always confounded me for the immeasurable ways that it has so suddenly yet drastically altered our social interactions. Everything that we do and say was built on the foundation of our physical interactions and relationships with other people. In order to survive, we had to be in the same space as other people, and thus we have learned every single physical movement, gesture, facial expression, and not to mention language and voice intonation, in the reflection of ourselves through other people. Along comes Facebook and suddenly children are being raised with a new (online) language, and possibly unlearning, in one or two generations, all of these physical interactions we imagine to be so innately human: eye contact, the grip of a good handshake, the perfect timing of a kiss on the cheek, the inflection necessary to land a good joke, the brush of a knee under a table to hint at intimacy.
This is not meant to be a critique of the medium, rather a fascination, an observation that something that seems to be such a fundamental quality of human beings could be so easily undone. Simulatneously, social media is this amazing platform that brings people together in a way that was never possible before. It has the power to reach people and make them ACT in a way that no other means of outreach has ever produced.
I refer of course, to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that has taken over the news feed of Facebook for the past couple of months. This morning, I watched George W. Bush get doused with a bucket of water while writing a check for the cause, and then proceed to challenge Bill Clinton to do the same. (I will only mention as a side note for those interested how impressed I am at the number of gender stereotypes George and Laura were able to pack into this 49 second clip!)
Obviously people are constantly trying to jump on the Viral Video Train to reach fame and fortune or simply raise money for a good cause. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been particularly interesting for me because of its massive success but also because of the utter lack of connection between the cause and the requested action. Have they unlocked the secret here? Then perhaps Andrea Grimes from RH Reality Check is onto something as well, with her Taco and Beer Challenge to raise money for abortion funds. Her logic:
What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? I don’t know. What do tacos and beer have to do with abortion? I don’t know that either. What I do know is that eating tacos and drinking beer is more pleasurable than getting doused with ice water, and that lawmakers around the country are passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion access laws. Which means abortion funds are now more necessary than ever as legal abortion becomes harder than ever to access—especially for those of us who don’t live in major urban centers. Tacos and beer, of course, remain as vital to our human happiness as they ever were. The solution is clear: Eat tacos, drink beer, and donate to abortion funds.
I think we are social animals no matter the venue of our interactions. What’s interesting about the Ice Bucket Challenge (and why I think it has been so successful) is the video component of it; it is the closest way to physically interact with people through the internet. Despite the barriers that the computer screen has placed between us, we are constantly finding ways to return to what is most comfortable to us, through Skype, Video Conferencing, text-messaging scents! Perhaps we will not degenerate into robots after all!
-Caterina Gironda, Southern Editor