There is at least one smart device in every person’s hand. The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission states that there are 43 million mobile phone subscribers in Saudi Arabia.
Certainly, the number in other Gulf States is close to this. Most of the subscribers use the applications found on these phones – applications which are deceitful and which disillusion users as it makes them think their ability to influence is huge. However, anyone who has been observing this social media phenomenon knows that a generation of idiots is fast spreading in a terrible way.
The new agent of chaos
This phenomenon has weakened intelligence, destroyed the book, dissipated the gift of memorizing and made hobbies like writing with the pen a memory from the past.
The gravity of this phenomenon is represented in its disastrous consequences on societies. The smart device is about to replace the social construct. For example, at the peak of Saudi preparations for the Hajj season, a person assaulted a security personnel, thus threatening and disobeying public order. This is an assault against the party which represents “the state’s legitimate use of force” as Max Weber puts it.
It is not enough to merely regulate the price of advertisements on social media networks. What is more important is to limit their misuse and employ them for the right purposes because this bullying as such deeply threatens the state’s entity and its stability, misleads the public perception, disrespects rules and laws and causes chaos that has audaciously turned against the values regulating the public domain.
What’s also noticeable is that these tools are used to exacerbate existing ills or to spread new contagion, thus promoting chances of sedition, igniting symbolic civil wars and waking up eradicative identities.
Terrorist governments may exploit the influence of those to whitewash their projects and root their militant situation via those involved in this phenomenon and of whom the majority of them belongs to the young and enthusiastic generations. They either become rogue revolutionaries, destructive terrorists or professional criminals. The countries that are addicted to supporting such social media users are well known, and the countries of the region and the world have suffered from the consequences.
It is foolish to equate being garrulous with exercising freedom of expression. The truth is that these forums are mere platforms for financial dealings, verbal buffoonery and for venting idiocy. We must stop the public from such activities, and state institutions must undertake extensive legislative studies to rationalize the use of social media.
Assault on intelligence
It’s dangerous how this phenomenon has strengthened values that are hostile to humanity. One of the most dangerous side effects of this malaise is the rise in unjustified egocentrism. The blight increases when governmental institutions make things worse by polarizing these groups to eradicate certain phenomena or by utilizing them for publicity, and we have seen the negative results of such use.
The social media phenomenon has also blurred the difference between arguments made in chat forums and analyses conducted by using scientific standards. The masses by their nature, as Gustave Le Bon put it, are not too inclined to reflect. Le Bon said that knowing the temperament of the masses is very important for rulers of a state in order to be wary of the consequences of any negligence of a reckless act that may happen and harm the state entity.
Despite the differences between the two phenomena, i.e. what Le Bon discusses and what we suffer from, it seems that some of the matters that he discussed could be of use to us. For example, Le Bon said that the individual forming part of a crowd acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to voluntarily yield to instincts in an irresponsible manner. He said that great decay happens when the conscious personality disappears, making way for a blind fellowship with the joint blind conviction of the need to go through a journey which limit is the mirage.
Need for studying social media
We must admit that the menace of social media has reached its limit. The state must immediately take the initiative to investigate and analyze this phenomenon, and then assess the situation to finally rationalize its effectiveness and control its limits. As for the slogans of freedom of expression and the right to have a say, then these all come in second after guaranteeing the security of the state and its institutions and are dependent on it.
This creeping trend has not stopped at flaunting, boasting and being audaciously ignorant but its waves have reached security men. This is a very dangerous indicator because it threatens the foundations of the state.
In his book Al-Basa’ir wa al-Dhakha’ir, Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi said that when Abu Hubayra was asked: What are the limits of stupidity?! He said: It has no limits.
The same applies to the social media phenomenon. It’s a state of a disastrous collective stupidity.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.