I have been doing a lot of thinking about social media in the past while. On Sunday, I was home alone for the evening, left to cull wedding images which is my least favourite thing to do in my job (why can’t the good images just separate themselves from the bad ones?!). While doing this, I get bored and I continuously flip around on Facebook and Twitter. Reading feeds, seeing what is new, seeing what cool things they are doing compared to little ol’ me, stuck at home working in my pyjamas. I then started thinking about how much time I was wasting. I started wondering just what am I getting out of reading all of this, besides a good case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Did I actually really care about anything that I was reading? Was I actually going to retain any of the information? No and no. I got to thinking about how all of this social media is ruining our lives and I started to make a list. Now I realise how ironic it is that I am now writing all of this in my blog that will then be shared on all of my social media platforms but the original form was, in fact, scribbled in my notebook with a real life ink pen in my actual left hand. So how is social media ruining our lives? Here’s what I figured out.
False Sense of Knowing.
I have had a couple of instances lately where I ran into an old friend. Someone whom I haven’t seen in years and after the small talk of saying “How the heck are ya?!”, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot else to catch up on. Why? Well, because I see her Facebook status updates daily in my newsfeed, in fact, I just liked her latest photo on Instagram. The keeping in touch with people over social media is cool and all but what we see there is a curated part of ourselves. When I am having a bad day, am feeling ill, have had a fight with someone, etc. I sure as heck am not posting about it online (that’s what my boyfriend is there for – to listen to me complain!). We choose what we post online and in turn, we are choosing how others know us. That old friend that I ran into? I actually could not tell you what she is up to these days which kind of defeats the purpose of all of those status updates, no?
The Creep Factor.
I will be the first to admit that I am a pretty good internet creep. And I know that I am not the only one out there (hi friends!). All of this social media stuff – whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – really ups the creep factor. Never before has it been so easy to find out so much information about complete strangers. We can easily find out what they look like, who their friends are, even what they ate at that cool new restaurant last night. Is this really of any benefit to any of us? In the past, I have been cyberstalked by a boyfriend’s ex and let me tell you, it did some real damage to me. Suddenly, I was that much more cautious about what I was posting online. (And also I felt sorry for her because she clearly had nothing better to do with her time.)
The Need to Photograph Everything.
I’m a photographer, I get it. I love taking photos. L-O-V-E. I create images in my sleep. My brain works in still images. But photographing everything out there? It’s a bit much. While I am guilty of this as much as any Instagram-loving individual, I have started to think, “Wait. What does this photo mean?” Call it my BFA-in-Photography background where I spent four years talking only about photographs, but seriously, why are you taking a photo of your dinner or your feet? What is the outcome for that image? Are you simply showing off that you are eating somewhere awesome or that you just bought some fashionable gear? Are you trying to show that your life is full of awesome things? Does anyone actually care? The fact that everyone has a camera on them at all times allows us to constantly document our lives but is it necessary? Do those images become anything afterwards? Never before has the value of photographs been so low. With so many of them, how do the great ones actually stand out? While you are busy documenting every meal, you are actually missing out on your life. By photographing it and worrying about then sharing it to the masses, you are not fully enjoying the moment. There is then a disconnect from you and the experience of that meal. I know a certain Instagramer who obsesses over the number of likes that their Instagram photos get. If the number of likes isn’t satifsying, the photo then gets deleted. Really? In the grand scheme of your entire life, the number of likes on one particular photo is a concern of yours? Man alive, get out and enjoy real life for a change. (Full disclosure: three times in the past twenty-four hours I have had to stop myself from taking a dumb photo to post on Instagram: the cute pigeon & squirrel footprints in the snow outside of my house, the cute flowers that my awesome boyfriend left all over the apartment last night and my Isabel Marant for H&M jeans that finally arrived. Why did I stop myself from sharing these things? Because really, who cares about them besides me? The answer: no one – well except maybe for my Moms.)
Pressure to be Cool.
Seeing all of these cool people tweet cool things that they are doing really sucks for the ego. It makes us feel that we aren’t doing enough. We have pressure to keep up or to do more. I have a secret to tell you: most of those cool tweets and status updates? They’re a boost. There is no way that that photographer booked ten weddings yesterday. But why did they post it? To make themselves feel better and you weaker? Whatever. You are better than that. And guess what? Your life is pretty cool and it’s so cool that you do not even have the time to keep your status’ updated. So keep on living that awesome life.
Death & Spending Time with People.
Unfortunately, I know a few people who have passed away in the recent months and it’s awful. But what I often find most disturbing is when their Facebook profiles stay open and their friends continually post on their walls. While I realise that perhaps this is the modern way of grieving, I do not know that I like it. A lot of times I have seen written “Wish we had got together more.” The thing is, we really are not spending as much real face-to-face physical time with those that we care about these days. I mean, you see their status’ and pictures on Facebook, that’s like hanging out, right? No way, Jose. Social media allows us to forget how much time has passed since we actually saw someone. It’s easy to like my status but much harder to actually make the time to have coffee or a real life phone conversation. Life is short and in the end, what matters the most are the ones we love. Get off your computers and phones and spend actual real time with people who are important to you. And for what it’s worth, when I die, the first thing that I want is to have all of my social media platforms removed. I don’t want people posting their condolences and niceties. If they were truly members of my life, they would have been an active part of it so would not feel the need to post in those formats.
Loss of Etiquette.
Have you noticed how people do not write in proper sentences anymore? How words are not even fully spelled? How emails are sent without addressing who the message is intended for? Social media is allowing us to slip in our manners and this is what irks me the most. If I have never met you before and you send me a message full of “LOLs” and happy faces, I am not going to think much of you. If you start a message with “Hi Jessica”, I am going to think, “Hey, we have a real person here!” Has the limitation of Twitter’s 140 characters ruined using language properly and politely? Or is it just that we are too busy to type out exactly what we are trying to say? I miss the days when my best friend and I used to write letters to each other once a week. Full hand-written letters that began “Dear Wendy” and ended in “Love Jessi” (that’s how I was known back then). Those were the days.
A Good Ol’ Unfollowing.
Have you ever been unfollowed by a friend on Facebook and Twitter and instantly felt hurt? Why did you feel this way? Is this person actually a friend? Does this unfollowing actually matter in the whole of your life? Not likely. I have had some friends unfollow me and while I took notice, I didn’t think much about it. You are in control of your life and if they choose to not be a part of it, so be it. No.Big.Deal.
Before Facebook and Twitter, I think that I was a lot happier. I bet a lot of us were. It seemed that back then we were living actual lives. Lives that were authentic. More time was spent face to face with those that we love rather than communicating through a glowing rectangle of your choice. Is all of this social media actually bettering our lives? Does anyone actually care when a celebrity tweets back at you or how many likes you received on your latest update?
I will, obviously, continue to use social media in all of it’s platforms. I actually do love it and I work it well into my business. However, from this day forward, I am going to be more aware of what I am posting. My images are going to be better curated. My updates are going to be more about things that I am good at or things that I am qualified to speak about. I will continue to interact with people on these platforms but I am going to think a little more carefully before I do. So next time you go to tweet or post an image on Instagram, I urge you to think about why want to share and what you want any outcome from that sharing to be.