Lately, I’ve been seriously questioning how social media is affecting our culture and considering perhaps what we’re ignoring with our addiction to the new technologies afforded by Facebook, Twitter and others.

Many of my friends are evacuating the consuming stream of updates, look–at–me push notifications and there’s plenty of research about how the new medium is affecting our quality of life in the modern age.

It’s nothing new though and recently, I ran across a video from 1960 where Marshall McCluhan suggests modern media (in his time) was returning to what he calls “tribal man.” An age where we don’t think on our own, but more interested in what the group knows – rather than the self.

You can’t help but marvel at the teachings of Marshall McLuhan. He leveraged his love of English and Literature to postulate prolific ideas about our changing world – particularly during the age of radio and television. Most people know about his phrase “the medium is the message,” but much more insight speaks to us from this media prophet in our age.

Among his insights from more than 50 years ago, he states “literary man” – mankind under the persuasion of books, was a path for individual identity. With the book as our tool for knowledge, we lived, loved and died by the book. In our solitary moments we made sense of the world, line-by-line, page–by–page.

He argues modern media is moving us into a “tribal drum” of topics and information that are viewed and absorbed collectively.

In many ways, his prophetic vision on the black and white screen is certainly a description of where we stand today. You’ll notice the narrator in the beginning of the Playboy interview speaks of a “global village…global village.” He describes the world as “getting smaller” too as everything becomes more available and more familiar.

The larger question here and one that perhaps relates to the grave loss we feel when we find ourselves lost in social media interfaces – is the loss of self.

From one perspective, I get to share something about myself. That satisfies a feeling of identity, but the trade off is that we also get to see everyone else. Not the whole story though, but rather a produced story – our own little Truman show crafted to exhibit all of things we want to brag about. With all of this braggadocio, no wonder some of us are giving up all together.

The days ahead may very well find myself re-evaluating my attention to social media. From one perspective, it’s necessary for the work, but it’s becoming more of a concern about what may be evaporating in my life. My greatest treasure – a self that has been crafted in private moments, away from the tribe – that’s where I understand myself and others with much more clarity.