Are narcissists bringing social media down?

Published: June 13, 2011

Social media has the power to solve things but only if we take away the ‘me’ and indulge in ‘we.’

A great deal is expected from social media here in Pakistan. We are the younger generation’s hope and the older one’s handing-over brigade. We are supposed to act as a check and balance for not only political corruption, but for mainstream media which most of us regard as an out-of-control dinosaur.

We are called saviors but I think we may need a little bit of saving from our own selves.

This weekend was a busy one for the social media savvy here in Karachi. On Friday, there was Google MapUp held at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) which proved to be a fun filled intense learning experience on the travail’s and tools of mapping.

Did you know that the maps we access every day from our smart phones are mostly made by Pakistanis?

To my surprise Lahore was the fastest mapped city in the world on Google maps. Pakistan has two world class mappers: Faraz, a 26-year-old programmer from Glasgow and Jabran, an IT administrator. Their tally – a little over 70,000 maps, mostly of rural areas of Pakistan – have been used by international aid groups and other organisations for disaster relief and general directions as well.

Impressed yet?

Don’t be, because this is just one facet of social media in Pakistan, a field which is littered with visionaries, writers, poets, software developers, policy specialists, musicians, painters, doodlers, with pure raw energy pounding through every vein of its collective body.

This energy was on display on Saturday at Pakistan’s first ever social media summit (brought to us by the United States (US) Consulate and PC world Pakistan), where we spent the entire day attending panel sessions on monetizing blogs, education and women’s role online.

The summit was attended by bloggers from Indonesia and Egypt plus two Skype sessions.

But with all this attention on the social media, I often wonder – is it worth it?

No doubt we influence opinion in Pakistan – many of us who were previously just bloggers have grown to become columnists in major newspapers. We are the voice of the citizen, the people who never sleep, but our conscious is completely asleep when it comes to one thing – our monstrous egos.

Basically what we have done is taken the Target Rating Point concept from mainstream media, that we all so love to hate and translated it into our own digital version of narcissism.

Who has the most followers?

Who must we stand around in a summit?

The broadcast media has always been faulted for being a one way street, only one channel of communication from broadcaster to viewer. However, we, the so-called alternative to this media, are also headed down the same dark alley.

If you don’t believe me, log on to Twitter for about five minutes and you will come across a social media expert in Pakistan. They will have about 3,ooo to 8,000 followers and will speak as if every minute of their time is the glue that is holding this country together. Yes, there are people with over 30,000 followers as well, but those we choose to ignore, mostly as they might threaten the status quo.

Arrogance is leading to deniability, deniability to irresponsibility, and we are making the exact same mistakes our mainstream media has made in its tremendous, mushroom growth – we have too much analytic and too little introspective thought. We cannot handle criticism and we think the answer to every issue is to gather 50 or so of us outside a press club and give sound-bytes to the same TV channels we all curse later.

Social media is a great tool for bringing people together. It has the power to solve things but only if we take away the ‘me’ and indulge in ‘we.’ Inclusion not exclusion is required here, an ungrouping of the various groups we are currently divided in, and a concentrated effort is needed to make a difference.

I quote the words of Mohamed El Dahshan, the Egyptian blogger who attended the Karachi summit:

“Eight million of us made the revolution in Egypt happen.”

I did not hear him say “I made it happen.” Perhaps that is why something did happen.

faisal.kapadia

Faisal Kapadia

A Karachi based writer who blogs at deadpanthoughts.com and tweets @faisalkapadia (twitter.com/faisalkapadia)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://afisays.blog.com Norwegian Pakistani

    “I judge the quality of my writing by looking at the traffic to my articles. I assess the humor of my jokes by counting retweets. My status updates, shared links, and photos of my kids need a certain number of Likes to be a success. How am I doing? That depends on how many friends I have, how many followers, how much traffic.”

    link textRecommend

  • Sgul

    Definitely time to reflect — time to take the social media revolution as it were to the next level of maturity. Recommend

  • http://wasioabbasi.wordpress.com Wasio Ali Khan Abbasi

    Well put Faisal. Although I didn’t get the chance to attend SMS or even the Google event, I agree with your general view that instead of joining together we start clustering around names and consider this division as form of unity. One look at Twitter explains much the way our mentality works. We might have inherited it from mainstream media and general behavior because in real life we also perform such clustering acts whether it’s family related, school, university, office or public gatherings. It has become part of our psyche and removing that will be a bigger challenge than one we can ever undertake.Recommend

  • http://www.6la8.com Confused

    In a word, yes.Recommend

  • Two Words

    Yes -ishRecommend

  • http://www.linkedin.com/company/sociality-360 Babar Khan Javed

    No idea what happened, except that C-level exec’s of Sociality360 gave a workshop there. Hope you learned somethingRecommend

  • Ilmana Fasih

    Well said, Faisal Kapadia.
    . It is the ‘feudal mindset’ in the Pakistani heads and the failure to rise above the hegemony of “me” and ” I am the righteous” which is the root cause of all the ills. Unless we get rid of this ‘feudal’ way of thinking, be it broadcast media, print media or any social media, they will all end up creating ‘individual fiefdoms’.Recommend

  • Moderate

    “Arrogance is leading to deniability, deniability to irresponsibility, and we are making the exact same mistakes our mainstream media has made in its tremendous, mushroom growth – we have too much analytic and too little introspective thought. We cannot handle criticism and we think the answer to every issue is to gather 50 or so of us outside a press club and give sound-bytes to the same TV channels we all curse later.”………Spot on mate!Recommend

  • http://fruitforbidden.wordpress.com/ The Forbidden Fruit

    Such a timely reminder to fellow bloggers! This is a 100% true. Bloggers who initially started blogging with the sole purpose of making a difference, when became successful, resorted to all sorts of gimmicks to hold onto their audience. Plus, the “COOL” profane language most people use in the bloggosphere is pathetic!Recommend

  • Saad Hashmi

    Could not agree with your article any more. The problem that exists now is that Twitter is filled with ‘pseudo-intellects’ who believe just being educated sets them apart from everyone else. But the truth is real knowledge comes not from how literate you are, but how you perceive yourself in relation to others and undeniably there is nothing more frustrating than reading the timeline of these ‘bloggers’ filled with what are meant to be witty, sophisticated commentary but end up being far, far from it. In a bid to show how ‘liberal-minded’ they are, they will be the first to question Islam and Pakistan’s national heroes, endorse activities such as drinking of alcohol and sex, but will never defend Islam, it’s national heroes and attack anyone with even the slightest conservative mindset as ‘leftist’ or ‘Talibanist.’ Utterly disgusting, social media is new in the country hence it lacks the sophistication that comes with time. Only then will Twitter be filtered out from ‘bloggers’ like mirza9, shehrbanotaseer, shakirhussain, uroojzia on Twitter and be filled with people who actually write to make a difference in the nation. Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    Faisal, it was a pleasure reading this article. I agree with your sentiments. I feel twitter has given many (otherwise trifling) people a platform to speak vociferously on every issue in life regardless of their level of knowledge on the subject. Many twitter celebrities (as i call them) have gained a false sense of fame and regard for their opinion. Its a nice thought that everyone is enjoying the freedom to express themselves but it comes at the cost of saturation in quality. A journalist interpreting an autopsy report, An English teacher giving tips on test cricket, a medical doctor giving opinions on statecraft, an engineer on history and the list continues. We have seen it all and been a part of it to some extent too. We are all ready-made experts waiting, with zeal, for our turn to speak. I suppose what I am saying is that a person should be well versed in what ever subject it is that one decides to give commentary on. Sadly, this is hardly ever the case. A research study on the effects of tweeting on self esteem would reveal some interesting facts. Twitter handles 1 billion tweets every 6 days and that is revolutionary in itself. Humanity surfing for all of life’s questions,answers and general ventilation on twitter makes a fascinating change in social order. As for me, after wasting much time on twitter myself, i have realized that there’s only one place where social media should be followed, and that is while sitting on the toilet seat ;) CheersRecommend

  • Dr,A.K.Tewari

    It is ofcorse a source and tool for social transformation in those countries where people can not express their views in main stream media due to the fear of being martyre like Shahzad .Recommend

  • madiha

    @Saad Hashmi:
    Oh well, when the traditional media’s boom came, we all said it will take some time to mature. Is it in any direction of maturity yet? Its becoming destructive as time passes. (Not to sound a pessimist here)

    What this medium needs is more exposure of the ‘good’ people. Why is it so that the good bloggers never publicize there work for general public. Do they have a facebook fan page? Do they advertise? How come posts like these written by Faisal never become viral. The good cant no more sit in a corner and do there job peacefully. If it is keeping the good happy, well they are doing nothing for me. To reach out, in short, market something good and real is not as ugly as judged. If we wait for the change to come, we would have to wait good 20 more years.

    We as a nation get sold out on cheap, most popular opinions. This is what we have been exposed to e.g. PTV, GEO. Social media is just doing the same for us.(no surprises) Follow people with outrageous opinions (sadly seen as revolutionists by young generation), share the videos, compare display pics and be happy (actually sad)

    @chaudhry: how aptly put ‘we are all ready-made experts’! Recommend

  • http://www.deadpanthoughts.com F.k

    @madiha Critique on a medium is not going to be made viral by
    that mediums superstars :p no issues but it should serve as an
    Eyeopener for them atleast.
    Even if that does not happen the world will find out eventually

    Truth always prevails

    Thanks for everyones support let’s collaborate and take bak the
    Blogsphere! Let’s only speak the truth!Recommend

  • madiha

    @F.k:
    in these times, the truth that is packaged prevails. sighs.
    back to our cocoonsRecommend

  • Hussam

    Twitter is a place where all the armchair activists and feminazis go to vent their ‘frustration’ at poverty, world affairs and politics while sipping thier Starbucks and Gloria Jeans coffee and eating their 400 rupee muffins over a page of the Lifestyle and Fashion section of The News.Recommend

  • Ahmed Shah

    This phenomenon is always going to be endemic when a class bound society interacts in a class-less world i.e. blogs, twitter etc. Recommend