By Hans Ebert

“If I didn’t need Facebook and Instagram for work, I would close my accounts. It’s really stressful reading or seeing some of the stuff people write. There’s way too much negativity out there. It’s probably why we all love the Carpool Karaoke episode with Paul McCartney. It was fun. It’s about keeping things simple and positive.”

A professional singer I know and myself were talking about “iPhone etiquette” and social media addiction and lost priorities in life. We talked about having dinner and how the iPhone is very often an uninvited guest. How, at both our homes and whenever out, dinner is a rare moment to connect with whom we’re with. No one else. All phones are banned from the dinner table. We have both seen too many on “dates” where one or the other were either photographing their food for Instagram or else busy texting. Little wonder some are drawn to Tinder. It’s less hassle.

Though she’s not on Twitter, I am for business reasons and to use it as a marketing tool. Used strategically, it works. But these days, there’s the constant reminder to be wary and mindful with whom one engages, when to press that “Like” button and, more importantly, like a number of friends and acquaintances are suddenly doing these days, spending less and less time on the social media platform or else leaving it altogether as it’s a “distraction”.

“Distraction” is too polite a word for something that’s sneaked up on the world. Somewhere which was once a nice place to visit, social media has been allowed to become all consuming.

It’s like the man eating plant in “The Little Shop Of Horrors” with fairly intelligent people starring in a real life version of “The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” and McCartney singing about Eleanor Rigby and “all those lonely people, where do they all come from?” playing in the background.

Once a playground for the young and the inquisitive, social media, along with various apps, have attracted, captured and trapped many who really should know better. Adults. Social media has become a weird vanity tool with some equating their popularity through the number of their followers. Jesus had followers, too, and look what happened to him.

How did we not see this tsunami of clutter hurtling our way and not stop to think about the business strategy and business model of those giving us all this “free stuff”? But as “free is good”, like kids in a candy store, we forgot about Willy Wonka and let greed get the better of us.

Add Daniel Ek and Spotify to the shopping cart. Spotify might be wonderful to most music fans, but how is a streaming service with zero marketing of those who have actually written and recorded their music going to stand out from this faceless app that, offers all this music, but with nothing to make any of it known? But, like sheep, people follow and become sheeple.

So your music is on Spotify and every other music streaming site. It’s on the Playlist of someone with so-called cred. Hmmm, this might be seen as a massive breakthrough. Really? Perhaps if a Dave Grohl or a Sir Paul McCartney were to have Playlists, maybe. But isn’t this a poorer version of whoever the Beatles, individually or as a group, got behind being a shortcut to being heard even if the Radha Krishna Temple?

How much did Beatle George Harrison help the world discover the music of Ravi Shankar? Think about those unknown artists who benefitted from recording a Prince song. Think about Mott The Hoople topping the charts by recording Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes”. And now some unknown’s music is on Spotify or Tencent. And then what? Is the needle moving, Bob?

I still remember an unknown artist from the UK we were working with having over 30 million streams on Tencent with the English cover of a huge hit for a Chinese artist. The royalty payout after six months was $30,000 remenbi that was to be split three ways. Who paid for the recording and the obligatory accompanying music video? The artist. The music company took a third of the “grand” royalties.

This was almost ten years ago and things might have changed, but one doubts it. It’s still a numbers and data driven business for those owning these platforms that play to those believing that their “views” and “likes” matter and will lead them somewhere even if these numbers have been bought.

When does one see real money or any other tangibles in exchange for feeding the beast with free content and paying them to “like” you more? When and where’s the payoff for services rendered other than something like Facebook being listed on the stock exchange and hopefully being able to buy its stock and sell at the right time? Isn’t this always the end game for Zuckerberg et al? An IPO listing? Isn’t this where Tencent is heading? The subscribers? What do they get? Let’s not spell it out.

There’s so much “click bait” around and the more one presses those “like” and “retweet” buttons, it benefits someone else. Sure, it’s “sharing” and as it’s free, no one gets hurt, right? It’s no big deal because “everyone is doing it”. But here’s the problem: “Everyone” is not anyone who is someone. It’s just a sea of Eleanor or John Rigbys embracing the beast with no payback. It’s an unhealthy pastime.

What happened to “everything in moderation”? What happened to finding a job in the real world and using social media to make something of what might start off being nothing?

Instead, much too often, the tail is wagging the dog with many too far down the road with second hand thinking to make a U-turn and start again.

Addiction has taken over along with formulaic thinking and often a sense of feeling lost, desperate, confused and bored with it all. This is when social media becomes most dangerous. When one feels social media is the only friend you can go to for company.

Boredom is at the very core of depression and one can’t help but think of the sudden spate of high profile celebrity suicides. Did they decide to pull that mental trigger of hopelessness after thinking their best work was behind them and there was nothing good ahead? There might have been other problems involved, but boredom with life is always a dangerous animal lurking in the background.

How many are bored to go out and meet up with people because you know what to expect- inane conversation, running into those with nothing to offer except jumping aboard for a free ride, taking care of the bill for the night and returning home and thinking how many more days like this can one survive?

It’s like relationships. Relationships that broke down as boredom had crept in are suddenly looking more far exciting than “Fifty Shades Of Grey” and “Eyes Wide Shut”, combined, because there’s really nothing and no one of any substance and attraction out there. Even drink doesn’t make the boredom of small talk sound exciting. As for the sex? Why bother? Trolling through Youporn is more exciting.

Maybe we’ve all given up. Maybe many need much more practice to survive and enjoy life in the real world. Maybe the real world has been downgraded? Maybe all those years spent living on social media has made too many an army of one dimensional, geographically challenged intellectual midgets with too much time on our hands? And you know what they say about how the devil makes work for idle hands…