Viewport width =
October 2, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

To be or not to be… Social

When considering how we (as individuals, students, netizens) use social media, I thought one of our most cherished writers — William Shakespeare. Before you dismiss this, saying “You speak an infinite deal of nothing,” I pray to thee that you hear me out first. The bard may seem like an antiquated uncle who wants to create a social media presence, however awkward that is for the rest of the family, but what he lacks in youth, he makes up for in brevity and humour; after all he did love to cross-dress his heroines and stir up a ruckus. We can look to Shakespeare for some helpful tips on how to make a lasting impression on the internet and create social happiness.

Social happiness is the feeling of belongingness, community, and acceptance that we, as social media users, derive from engaging in valuable interactions on the web. We experience it when we share or read honest accounts of our lives without trying to impress anyone. When our connections are based on genuine friendships and generosity — that is when social media becomes a beautiful medium to garner social happiness.

So what advice would Shakespeare have given to his followers?


“Give every man thy ear but few thy voice” (Hamlet, I.iii.69)

I think this would have been Shakespeare’s first piece of advice. Every minute news and topics are written and rewritten about. As much as this throws light on a particular issue, there remain many shades of a topic that are not explored or shared. Important voices get drowned in the sea of information that is social media. So we should process the trending topics before jumping the gun. Typing up a quick tweet in 140 characters and sending it out can be exhilarating, but not everything in the media demands instant judgment. Scanning one’s timeline is good, but what is even better is understanding what it is that we are scanning.


“I’ll call for pen and ink, and write my mind.” (Henry VI Part I, V.iii.66) 

We must tread carefully when it comes to sharing our personal thoughts and ideas. We have all had these urges to write our mind, but sometimes no sooner have we done that than a voice inside of us screams in horror, quickly locating that delete button. Unfortunately, when we scribe our outbursts in a tweet or a snap or an #instaphoto, we can forget the power and longevity of screenshots. A good way to slow down and self-check is to record our thoughts elsewhere first, and then head to the compose button on screen. It’s helpful to remember that most of the popular retweeted posts or shared Facebook posts are the outcomes of well thought out plans and media strategies.


“You starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish!” (Henry IV Part I, II.iv.224)

We have all seen how trolls take pride in sending awful comments, thinking they are being witty when actually they are being rude, sexist, or downright bullying. It is moments like these that we need this Shakespearean line on repeat. I have read about how people who are decent humans IRL have turned out to be vicious online trolls, and as much as I would often like to step up my game and reply to nasty comments, I think of these lines and refrain myself. It’s just not worth my time, headspace, and social happiness. I am not saying don’t fight back when things get out of hand, like in cases of cyberbullying and online sexual harassment. I am referring to those who engage in small talk and pettiness just to get a reaction; I see it as ploy to distract me from doing my work, and have no qualms in ignoring these bull’s pizzles.


“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” (Richard II, V.v.49)

According to a Nielsen report in 2016, in an average week “3.1 million New Zealanders aged 15 and over spend 14 hours online,” which equals two working days a week. A lot of this is social media. Social media works in a weird overlapping way, and for first-time users the trill can be chaotic and addictive. We waste endless hours on commenting, liking, sharing, editing, and posting photos, and binge watching videos. Not to mention all those times when we get agitated by someone’s insensitive comment and get into our Caps Lock Mode; people often engage in heated arguments with strangers over posts on celebrities, games, and news. Social media is a labyrinth, but once we approach it with a purpose, we can better use the magic of social networking to share our voice, art, and creativity.


“There is flattery in friendship.” (Henry V, III.viii.103)

So how many likes did you get on your last Facebook post or Instagram photo? Did your friends get more likes on their photos? Do they have more followers than you? Yes, we have all been there. But let’s be honest and ask ourselves: how many of our online interactions translate to substantial friendship? How many online friends will show up when we really need them? You may say three. In my case, there will be two (yep, you guessed it, family members).

This is not to discount people who have made meaningful connections online, which they weren’t able to make in places where they lived, or online connections that have translated into beautiful offline friendships. My question pertains to those who compare their friends list with that of others in a way to numerically corroborate their own accomplishment and presence. We confuse quantity with quality in this social media age, and social profiles exhibiting one’s job, position, and lifestyle have exacerbated the perpetual need for external validation; a person’s worth risks being reduced to their social media presence. A true friend is hard to find and the ones who truly care will always appreciate your strengths and “bear [your] infirmities,” both online and offline.


“My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.” (Henry VI, Part 3, III.i.62)

Have you felt the strange sense of competitiveness when skimming through pictures of work achievements, travel photos, baby pictures, or new purchases by your friends in your timeline? I have felt it; I can see that a certain group of my friends are competing with another set of my friends. Hey, even I am guilty of posting work-related photos just to prove (to myself) that I am doing something worthwhile. And to be honest, I am tired. This constant comparison takes a toll on our self-worth and confidence. On the one hand, we might feel inferior comparing ourselves to those who are faring better than us; and on the other, we may feel a certain degree of gratification when we see ourselves doing better than those to whom we feel superior. In both these cases, cherry-picking experiences and snapshots from other people’s lives hurts us in the end. Hence to achieve social happiness, enjoy the thought that you are the king/queen of your life, and wear that crown with pride.


A year ago I wrote a blog about a prominent 20th century Indian artist, and like my blogging brethren, I did not think much about it. The inclination to write on that particular artist emerged because I thought he was a great painter, but I did not find his works much in circulation on the internet. I wrote the blog as a gesture of appreciation for his aesthetic vision. Recently, that artist’s son contacted me over Facebook to let me know that he was touched by the article, and he was now publishing a coffee table book commemorating his father’s works. He said that he felt a new pride in his father’s work, and the renewed interest in his father ignited this book venture. On hearing this, I felt a great sense of fulfilment at the thought that my post could impact someone in such a strong manner.

Social media is an influential medium that can be used to improve many aspects of our society and touch the lives of many in the process. Its value lies in ushering change in people’s lives, in getting us out of our comfort zones, and experiencing the world at large. It certainly has changed my life for the better, and I do hope you harness it to share your voice and add meaning to your life. We are blessed to be alive in this technological moment and to be able to inspire, connect, and empower one another. Let’s use this opportunity to build something new, exciting, and enabling —


To be, or not to be social: that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to see the vulnerable suffer alone

The sighs and sorrows of disparity,

While we celebrate our rotting decadence,

Or to take a stand against a sea of injustices

Trampling innocent life and nature

And by raising our voices

Oppose them: that is the question.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required