Okay, here is a new concept that I am going to try out. Every Friday I am going to write a piece called the “Do*Good Fridays” piece. What this is going to be is a little bit of a social experiment. Once a week I am going to do something good for a total stranger. The social experiment comes in when we take note of people’s reactions as well as how doing this one good thing for a total stranger each week will affect me and my perspectives about people.
Personally, I believe that there is a lot of good locked up inside of people in today’s world, we are just too caught up in things to let it out or notice it. The things that we get caught up in, I know I do, are things like our electronics, be it an iPod, smartphones, video games, our pursuit of everything “me”, be it advancement in the workplace, social advancement, acquiring more material goods, and, the biggest thing that I find to be the most alienating and yet connecting thing, social media. Social media, in its conceptual form, is a fantastic and amazing thing that can instantly and continuously connect people all around the world. The problem with social media is that it is a safe haven, a refuge, it is no longer the World Wide Web, it is the World’s Wild West. Social media gives people the place they need to go online and post whatever it is they feel, positive or, in most cases, negative, and receive no accountability for what they say. It is the new Wild West. I can get on this blog and rant and rave and just go off on whomever or whatever I want. I am given the strength and confidence of anonymity. If I get on social media and tear a new one into, for instance, a local government official, that government official is more than likely never going to see me face to face, I am never going to be called to account for what I said, I can pretty much say whatever I want with virtually no repercussions. This is why social media can be the single most alienating facet of our society. Kids can just go onto social media and say whatever they want to say with no filter and have no accountability for their words, unlike when I was a kid when, if you didn’t like somebody at school, you either worked it out face to face, or you kept your mouth shut. I believe that type of forced coping gave me a great respect for the power of words and made me understand that I am directly held accountable for my words and actions. If I called a kid at school a name or got caught “putting someone down”, I was sent to the principal’s office. I got after school detention. I learned that what I say does have a direct affect on people around me and I must be accountable for that. With the advent of social media, there is a disconnect between what you say and the direct effect it has on the people involved. The iPods are another thing that I find to be a huge barrier standing in the way of human connection. More and more often now, as I walk down a city street, stand in line at a store, or sit on a train into town, I see people with ear buds in, listening to music. Totally tuning the world out. This is even being advertised. There is currently running a commercial for new Bose ear buds. It opens with a younger guy, walking around a busy city with his Bose ear buds in with the text reading, “When the world gets noisy, I don’t mind”. This is an ideal example of how personal electronic devices have allowed us to become so self-absorbed that we find peace in totally tuning the world around us out. With the increased pressure on people to acquire material belongings, the increased emphasis on the importance of those material things, the enabling of society to disconnect through electronics, and the disenfranchising effect social media has on us, I see a society that is immeasurably more disconnected than the one that I grew up in.
All of this together is giving me the inspiration for this social experiment. I want to see if doing one random act of kindness a week for a total stranger will have any effect on my feeling of disconnect from people and to see what the reactions of people will be to my acts of kindness. I believe that this will give me a good insight into the current human condition as has been shaped by the age of iThis and iThat and Facebook and Twitter.
Now as I stated above, I do believe that these innovations can be helpful and good. I just believe that our society, and mainly mainstream media, promotes these things as of the utmost and highest import. These are the biggest and best things of our lives, these are the items that will give you the life you want, that will allow you to live a truly good life. I disagree. I say that having a life full of meaningful interaction and one on which your lasting mark is left is of the utmost importance. That is a truly good life. You can’t have that type of life if you’re consumed with hiding behind social media and being totally tuned out of the world through our personal electronics and totally disregarding the human interaction that we as a species are designed to engage in.
Do*Good Fridays are a way for me to test all of this and see if there is still connection to be had with other people and if that connection will positively impact both myself and others. If you wish to join me, feel free to post your comments of your interactions and let us know what you think.