This has been running through my head lately and I need to put it somewhere so it's going on my old blog (despite blogging being a dying art- no one wants to take all that time to READ, heavens!- but I can't sum this up on a meme for Instagram) and on Facebook. It initially started as a Facebook post but then it just kept snowballing. Now it feels like Jerry Maguire's Mission Statement.
When I lived in London nearly 18 years ago (seriously, I had to work that out on the calculator because when I did the math in my head I was like there is NO WAY it has been that long- but the little kids I looked after back then are grown up and traveling the world and getting married and who knows what else) social media didn't even exist. It cost money just to check my email on a computer in the bookstore basement, and only one (very rich) girl I knew had a cell phone. That year was a time of massive personal growth for me, and I would not have been as completely immersed in the experience of living in another country as I was if Facebook had been tying me back to the friends I already had back home. How would I have met new people if I had my nose in my phone scrolling through Facebook on the train to school? How would I have joined up with the crazy Australian girls (pretty much a college travel requirement) in York if I had been distracted by a text conversation with friends from high school? Would I have been as engrossed in the history of Hampton Court Palace if I was trying to take (and filter) the perfect picture for Instagram while I was there?
Does social media hold us back from participating in new experiences? How are we making room for new things in our lives when what we're being presented with is a blue/white (it's black and gold!) dress or a red cup that has to be analyzed immediately, with opinions formed instantly, and the entire episode discarded from the collective conscious within a day? The "info-edu-entertainment" variety of social media is isolating and insulating. Don't get me wrong- Facebook and the like are amazing tools (and I'm using those tools RIGHT NOW, I get the irony). But I want to explore how I can use them to open my world up instead of making it smaller.
Fear Of Missing Out on social media is literally causing us to miss out on our very real lives. We are distracted because we want to share everything with everyone. We can't just enjoy what we're doing, can't live fully in the moment, because many of us are wondering how we can share that moment with everyone who sees our feeds, and be validated that we're doing something worthwhile by the number of likes we get. Do we even know how to be completely present in the moment without that validation? And how many times do you look at someone's "perfect" online life and wonder where you went wrong? It is hard not to compare yourself with posts from celebrities on Twitter, let alone Pinterest and Instagram. Don't think for a minute that those "candid" pictures of the perfect house, perfect car, perfect garden, perfect body, perfect meal, and perfect vacation, which can make you feel completely inadequate, aren't heavily staged and edited. No one needs more pressure to live up to expectations so unrealistic that they require 3 apps to make an image post-worthy. Make sure what you're comparing yourself to is REAL.
I worry about how focused we have become on every. single. tiny. detail. that is brought to our attention. Think for a moment about who determines what those details are. There is a lot of very broad, shallow knowledge out there. Can we determine for ourselves what is really important anymore? On a darker note, our focus is being pulled in a million different directions by advertisers and influencers who continue to get more and more subtle in their ways of getting into your head (and your wallet). All that yelling on “news” programs? They know that "fight" gains them attention, and therefore more advertisers. When two of their actors (sorry, I can't say anchors) go toe to toe about an issue, do you really think they're sharing their honest opinions, or the opinion that is likely to get the most clicks when it is summarized in a piece on an aggregate website and shared on Twitter? The media loves a crisis. Elections will probably be won or lost based in part on someone losing their cool on a campaign stop and getting recorded on a 7th grader's cell phone and that video going viral within hours. There is no time to edit. There is no time for reflection. The only response we see is reaction.
We are so quick to judge and slow to forgive.
This is the world we live in. Do I want to stop my involvement? No, I would be completely out of touch with many things I find important. Do I feel overwhelmed by all of the STUFF coming at me? Absolutely. Don't we all?