How about a round of applause? Or, better yet, an indication of envy? Or, rather, just tell me how fabulous my life appears to be in comparison to yours.
I challenge you to take a closer look at what motivates your social media life and give yourself permission to be honest… with yourself.
Almost every able-bodied human being over the age of a fetus, with the exception of the Amish, participates in some form of social media. Even my husband’s 90-year-old grandfather is on Facebook (which continues to impress, actually). I am on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and occasionally Twitter. Even I am unable to keep up with my own social media overload. I, like many of you, have developed a bad habit as a result of it: I am not always living in the moment. Rather, I’m often revolving about in the social media stratosphere, phone in hand and oblivious to the value of what is right in front of me. In other words, I’m too preoccupied with documenting my life that I am often not enjoying it and being as present as I should be.
One day when I have children and a face full of wrinkles, I will be grateful for the pictures I have which captured my freedom and frolicking as a newlywed pre-children, but most of all I will be longing to relive the moments in my mind. Pictures and other means of documentation are valuable because they assist in keeping the memories alive, however what if they also create a distraction from the importance and beauty of the actual moment?
Always Connected, Yet So Fragmented…
A couple of years ago an acquaintance of mine, while still in the early stages of us getting to know one another, made an extensive effort to coordinate which one of us would be performing the Facebook “check-in” for the evening. While in route to meet her and a few others for dinner, she sent out a group text message which read: I’m going to go ahead and let one of you guys check us in at dinner because I’m always the one to do it. I was amused by her request, but it felt a bit unsettling.
In our society, I occasionally feel as though we spend more time documenting our time spent hanging out by trying to get the pictures and hashtags just right than we do actually talking and connecting with one another. We are rarely ever fully present in one place. We are out with our friends, but are more focused on finding the best lighting for our selfies than actually engaging in conversation. We are out to dinner, but instead of savoring every flavor we are instead making sure to document it on SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook. We feel compelled to show up for our audience. We are always connected, yet so fragmented. While becoming increasingly connected to the outside world, we have become disconnected from ourselves.
Because of the social media epidemic, it is also my observation that time spent among friends is often overshadowed by agendas. It often feels contrived and staged. Social media breeds and feeds shallow connections, and I find myself hungry for deeper, more meaningful connections now more than ever. We are starving ourselves while gorging on our incessant compulsion to perform. Worst of all, it is a viciously contagious epidemic! I am not immune. I, too, have too fallen prey to the social media monster, despite my hunger for what it can never feed me.
While at at coffee shop recently, I observed two girlfriends who snapped at least thirty pictures, in the span of about thirty minutes, all while discussing their social media lives. During their hour of time together, I lost count of how many times I heard them reference Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter, for it dominated 80 percent of their conversation. Most interestingly, they did not part ways without one of them compulsively burying her face in her phone and editing their new pictures. They were seated next to each other in silence, one staring at the other as she edited like a maniac.
It was both eye-opening and comical. The obsession was evident. And, sadly, it was clear the driving force and motivation for the obsession was not so much to capture the time spent with a friend as it was proving a point to her audience. She was on stage. In fact, with social media, we are all on stage and are often seeking the best, most robust and ground-shaking round of applause. We often sacrifice the authenticity of our relationships for our delusions of relevance and a false sense of being on stage.
I’m Offended By Your Lack of Social Media Interest…
It is difficult to not be offended if your photos do not receive as many “likes” or comments as the next person’s. It is difficult to not compete for more social media admiration than the next person. I think the most unfortunate aspect is simply that our observers will ultimately receive all of the entertainment out of our lives because we will have been too preoccupied to enjoy it. We may be living magical, colorful and genuinely blessed lives for our audience, but what about us? What about you? What was the actual experience like? How about you take my hand and step off of the stage with me from time to time. We can hop onto the “Off the Stage And In The Moment” bandwagon together, for at least a few hours a day. Such fun it will be actually making eye contact, no phone in hand and no distractions, while having a conversation without worrying if the lighting is flattering or if your mom will find your outfit inappropriate. Breathe. Take the moment in, and observe both the lessons and wonder it has to offer. Marvel at the face in front of you. Let’s actually live a little, and not worry so much about proving to others how much we are living.
I’m just being honest.
©TheDailyDoll.com/Lacey Johnson 2014/2015
An updated version of this article has now been published on The Huffington Post, and can be found here.