Social Media wipes your cognitive mapping

A wealth of information doesn’t equate to a wealth of knowledge – this is a given. Yet ‘the race to know’ (not really a competition, more a feeling that you never know enough about the important things we trust affect our lives) makes the quest for more information incredibly seductive.

Throughout the modern age we’ve been bombarded (on lesser scales) by information overload that confuses our attempts to understand, from newspapers, wireless radio to rolling news. It becomes hard, if not impossible to distinguish what does and doesn’t concern our interests. For example, a brutal murder, 100 miles away; despite it being of a very upsetting nature, it really has very little connection with the concerns of the rest of us, unless we begin to ask whether a rise in country-wide homicides correlates to decision-making policies. But ‘news’ rarely goes into the genealogy of incidents, and just leaves us confused by a downpour of seemingly unrelated happenings. It can often seem like it’s all out of control, making us feel powerless (or at least more powerless) than usual.
Take this affect into consideration and times it by ten, and this is the predicament faced by the concerned in the age of social media, where information is distributed far thicker and faster thant at any other time in human history.

3 recent events, and the circumventing shower of sources reporting/commenting on them, have literally put my current feelings of panicky disorientation to their highest point in years. These These 3 events are the rise of the UKIP-spectacle, the situation in the Ukraine and the situation in the Favelas in Brazil in advance of the world cup.

I am without a doubt that beneath the conflicting reports, and the unrealness of it all, the events are genuinely disturbing (quite horrifying in the case of the Ukraine and Brazil), but I’ve been so saturated by internal conflict caused by the social media feed-storm of concerning issues, that I have completely lost the capacity to begin to understand just what is going on, anywhere whatsoever.
Maybe my capacity for keeping a level head is shorter than average, and maybe my habitual scatterbrain, my tendency towards many different info-sources, increases this feeling. But I don’t think I am alone because social media platforms have increasingly come to resemble mad-houses (if I can use such an historically-discriminatory term) at breaking point.

My conclusion, the only damn conclusion I feel equipped to make due to the aforementioned scenario, is that information/opinions/reports are mushrooming due to an increased disorientation fed by hasty-yet-futile attempts by the multiple media-bias’ conflict with the rest of us to find understanding/the truth of the situation(s), which is then further mushroomed by our attempts to capture these sources as they slide down the liquid social media platform, and share an opinion on what we trust could affect us/the common good. An information bomb caused by our desire for understanding confusing it with information.

Right now I feel like I have lost my ability for ‘cognitive mapping’. I feel disorientated, thus utterly powerless in the face of perceived-concerns. I presume this is how most of us feel; I presume this resulting feeling of powerlessness is at the root of this increase in the opposite use of social media; the distribution/sharing of the twee, the cutified and the obsession with the past; all the hallmarks of relinquishing of any responsibility when it feel so insurmountable to take it on; rebuilding our childhood rooms, becoming kids, and letting the ‘adults’ run the show.

I feel ‘cognitive mapping’, the ability to make a mental map “of the social and global totality [one that we] we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms” (Jameson) is crucial, because it allows us at least to be able to begin to understand that the power of capital lies behind all these problems, with its demands on an ever-increasingly damaged ecological and social-sphere for more profit extraction. We locate capitalism in concrete abstractions. If we fail, we locate false concrete abstractions, like conspiracy theories, or more relevantly, we blame immigrants for our economic plight, use the ‘the bad guys versus the goods guys’ binary as an explanation for the wars in the world.

It’s sad to admit that I think the overall affect of the Internet, at least under the dictum of neoliberal-economics-mixed-with-neoconservative-methods of power, has been to make us unlearn, confuse and forget, rather than inform.

About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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