Consider this a disclaimer. Making most of the thoughts I am sharing in this post public via a blog post is going to be pretty much the epitome of hypocritical behavior. I’m going to comment on social media, technology, and the seemingly constant bombardment of advertising, media spin, and the opinions of everyone with a phone, tablet, and/or computer and how they are curious and problematic for me. I dare say I am not the only one who feels this way, but yes I admit that I am saying it to strangers, which makes me a part of the problem, perhaps. I should also say, it is nothing personal. If you’re facebooking, instagraming, tumblr-ing, vibe-ing, blogging and tweeting simultaneously right now, I am actually quite impressed with you.
Indeed, as an occasional blogger I may be part of the “problem” that is internet-based over stimulation and occasional word vomit. But maybe not. Writing here is not an attempt to influence others with my thinking or my words, or to make anyone feel bad about themselves. This is not a persuasive essay circa 9th grade writing tests (do those still exist?). I’d like to think that if anything, putting my thoughts into words can be simultaneously therapeutic for me and potentially useful, entertaining, or otherwise meaningful to others. If someone can identify with how I feel, and in turn, make me and themselves feel a smidgen less alone in the world, or even just laugh, I have done something that is not bad. If not, well..crap.
stop. checking. Facebook. Alex.
Have you ever spent a few minutes (hours) on social media only to feel somehow worse than when you “just checked your notifications really quickly”?
Well, I have.
I started to think about this, and to recall a time when there was no Facebook (GASP!) or when I was so busy living my life that I didn’t look at Facebook much, if at all. It was this reflection that brought me to reconsider what I was really doing at times, when I was “just” scrolling through status updates, images, and “shares”. It wasn’t fun to admit to myself, but at times, I was engaging in some form of competition, life-envy, or jealousy… among other super-unhealthy behaviors. And people do this: make comparisons, gauge themselves against others, peer into the world of someone else to see if it resembles your own. But then I thought about what is really out there, and why it might make me feel differently pre- and post- scroll.
How could wedding photos, pictures of babies, workout memes and motivational quotes (all happy, positive things, really) make me feel unhappy? Well, for one, I had to stop and remind myself that how I feel is really about me. Then, I considered that, although some people use social media as a way to air their dirty laundry and be nothing-but-negative, most people choose to share the happy things. Exclusively. All wedding pictures, new born babies, cute puppies, and great hair days. Now, if all you see when you scroll through your Newsfeed is a glimpse into the best parts of a person’s life, you can accidentally forget that they are not, in fact, always smiling/eating something delicious/having a wonderful time with their dog/ at the gym/ holding a baby/ kissing their husband. These are the cliff notes. The highlights.
Facebook is not life (no matter how much of mine I have spent on it). Facebook is a slice of everyone’s reality, and in some cases, only a public portrayal of what a person wishes life was like and hopes people think is their real world. I, too, have untagged myself in pictures that don’t reflect happy, pretty, shiny Alex. So I apologize, and willingly admit: some parts of my life are messy, chaotic, boring, and un-share-worthy. There, I said it.
just because you called/texted/emailed and I SAW it…does not mean I have to respond immediately.
In the age of instant communication, it can be difficult not to live in a constant state of “reply”. Working from home has taught me to (try to) observe “office hours”, or one or two times during the day that I check my inbox and respond to messages. Why? Because if I instantly responded to every notification, email, text, and status update I was “tagged in”, I might never accomplish anything else. I also recently unsubscribed from and un-followed all those emails and posts I see all the time just long enough to delete. A full inbox makes me anxious. An inbox full of crap you signed up for but don’t know why—that’s just annoying.
I do not mean to imply that I am so popular or super-duper important that my messages are backed up so far that I can never get back to everyone. I do mean to say that not every text/call/email/status update should, or can realistically, be treated as if it is more important than my family, my friends, my job, my sleep, my fitness, my breakfast (and lunch, and dinner, and… snacks), the time that is actually mine…ya know? I mean, if I’m “having dinner with my boyfriend” but actually just scrolling through Instagram while he checks his fantasy football team(s), we are losing quality time with each other.
I’ve been thinking about this (too much, probably) and as a result/experiment, I am trying hard to reteach myself to behave like a human… i.e. when a person is actually sitting right in front of my face, I pay attention to them; if I want to talk to someone about something other than a quick question, I call them and talk to them with my mouth; when I’m working (this one’s tough), I am at work even though I am actually at home. I should take breaks, yes. But I should not make my difficult-to-observe schedule worse by taking a break every time someone “likes” my photo. Notifications: off. Phone: silent. TV: off. (Spotify: on.)
//An Overwhelming World of Possibilities//
I want to do everything. But I don’t have the time or money to do everything. Crap, I’ll just do nothing.
I feel kinda bad for children born in the always-on, screens big and small information age. It can be so very overwhelming. There is so much to do and see that it can be difficult to choose, to differentiate between “real” and “as seen on TV”, or to even grasp the value of privacy, intimacy, and modesty in the share-everything world we live in.
I started watching a documentary called Tiny on Netflix, and a series on FYI called Tiny House Nation, both about people downsizing to tiny 200-300 square foot homes with independent solar power, simple multifunctional spaces, few extravagant luxuries, and in many cases, the ability to be loaded onto a trailer and moved anywhere. I immediately wanted to unplug, throw away everything I own, pack up my boyfriend and my dog, and live small. Why? Because the world is filled with so much noise that if I don’t find a way to carve out space for peace, for reflection, for interpersonal relationships, rest, and other practices of self-care, all that will come of the many, many possibilities is anxiety. And man, ain’t nobody got time for that.
I suppose the moral of this whole story is that there is no substitution for real human contact. Maybe this is glaringly obvious to me here and now solely because I lack this contact in my current work life. Despite the fact that social media is a way to “connect” people to one another, to make just about everyone accessible to everyone else, when I consider that I have just shy of 900 “friends” on Facebook, and may “know” a little bit about people I’ve not spoken to in years— what is the point of all that? How many of these people know me on a level beyond what my status updates, shares, and photos reveal?
Feeling connected is important to us as human beings. It is necessary. But, for me at least, it is far more important to actually connect with far fewer people, and for real. I want to make eye contact with people, not with the back side of their iPhone.
- How do you balance technology with interpersonal relationships?
- Do you experience any negative effects from social media and/or technology?
- How do you unplug?