I am a 20-something, and social media scares the shit out of me. I use it every day. Since the inception of MySpace, I cannot remember a week that has gone by where I have not checked one of my social media forums to see what New Things have gone on, or what Nice/Funny Things people are commenting me. And I have realized that I am, we all are, self-absorbed assholes. Does it make it okay that we are self-absorbed assholes as a cohort, storming the streets while taking selfies? Instagramming our protests outfits and lunches, and live-tweeting every action we make, every step we take? Or is it just ridiculous that we have been raised in a culture so self-entitled that we are under the impression that our every thought is worth our every friends’ attention and clicks of gratification?
Multiple times daily, hourly, I take my phone from its position no further than three feet from me and flick instinctually to Instagram. I numblingly scroll through the current fixed lives of my several hundred casual friends to see what they are up to at that given moment in time. Everyone on my news feed looks so polished underneath their Valencia glows. They, out with their social media warmth, and me, ignoring whatever warmth is currently surrounding me physically. It seems like a different world, this social media game we play. Like the Sims video game I would play on when I was younger. People, toddling around yards and spaces, judging one another’s happiness by a colored diamond over their heads. Winning points by being a computer programed definition of happy; losing points by doing nothing when no one was keeping score. It is a warped game we play, indeed, and we are all playing along like this is forever the norm.
What is ironic and yet understandable to me is that I deleted my Facebook once I got married. At the time when most people are unknowingly rubbing their happiness in the faces of all their single friends, I suddenly realized was a self-obsessed ass I had been looking like, with my engagement photos, bridal shower photos, bachelorette party photos, rehearsal dinner photos, and wedding photos. GUYS, LOOK AT AND LOVE MY SHIT!!!! I didn’t buy this dress for my husband to look at, I bought it so someone would fawn over it on Pinterest!
I woke up one day and was scrolling through comments some of my 800 closest friends had left on some of my wedding photos. I was silently pleased with how lovely everyone thought my wedding had been, because I thought that it had been lovely too. I remember one of my bridesmaids telling me the day of my wedding that “so and so told me they are just so excited to see what your dress and wedding looks like,” and yet “so and so” were people I had not spoken to since high school. And yet we were the best of friends. The best of Facebook friends. Giving a thumbs-up to each other’s life accomplishments and then quickly scrolling past said accomplishment on our news feeds, onto our next best friend’s life event that we could bestow a Like upon. Silent praise and envy, mixed in to one single passive-aggressive click. I hated it and relished in it at the same time, like a girl who loses ten pounds and waves off the compliments. “Oh, it’s nothing! It’s so weird that you noticed. I just finished a cleanse…” Bullshit. You wanted this.
And there I was, embarrassed and yet soaking in the love from those who had not been to my wedding, and those who I have not seen in years. “Thanks for watching the show! Be sure to check in over the next 50 years for every highlight of my life! 85 Likes?! This picture must be awesome! [Posts photograph to Pinterest].” I am a bullshitter, and yet I hate bullshit. I am confused by what I have become, and what I am interested in wasting my time scrolling through.
I deleted Facebook a year ago, post-wedding, after reading a study about how social media affects our brains. Basically, every time we see that someone positively acknowledged our carefully calculated social media world, we get off to it like it is a drug. It feels good. Then the feeling fades, and we want more. Dopamine is a funny thing, and it is a key player in reward-driven learning. I posted a photo of me taking a shot at a bar and it received way more attention than the inspirational quote I posted last week? Off with your heads, inspirational quotes! The People do not want to hear your shit. Yes one year ago, I silenced the feed of bickering political opinions, thousands of baby and wedding photos, boobied-out selfies, and general incompetence. And I have not missed it a day since. Man was not created to see what 800 people were doing at one time. Man was created to go out and seek the world, rather than scroll through it.
The main focus of social media is ourselves, and ourselves in comparison to other people. Even if you had not realized that before: how awesome do you feel about your year in a cubicle after seeing your friend’s 850 photographs of him backpacking through Europe without a care in the world? How delicious does your brown-bagged lunch taste as you sip your flat Diet Coke, scrolling through a glamorous Instagram feed of a delicious deli you are currently not experiencing, and probably would not want to experience, seeing as their sandwiches are $17 each? Yet dammit, those sandwiches look effing delicious underneath the Walden filter. We are torn between our current lives and our ficticious lives. We pin to our Pinterest board like we are playing virtual House with our friends. We post “casual” photographs with friends at a trendy coffee shop in our best outfits, wearing sunglasses indoors like celebrities. And inside, we might feel silly. But outside, we are just playing the game. And after all, that coffee shop photo got, like, 53 hearts.
I realized that social media, or, Social Media, has been a part of my entire teenaged experience. It is an unstoppable force, impossible to get rid of, tap-dancing in our faces to remind us of what we are missing and why everyone should love us, the star of the show. I see moms posting mirror shots of themselves with their daughters peering up at them from their knee-height. Wondering in childhood amazement why their mom is always smiling at her own reflection, rather than the beautiful daughter they created down at their feet. I see young girls pursing their lips in “duck face” mode at the camera, hips popped, elbows out, modeling whatever trend we have created where this is an acceptably sexy pose. I see shirtless guys and “fitspirational” girls on Instagram’s popular page with 148,394 hearts, photos of fast cars and unobtainable sunsets, selfies and exotic locations. Most of all, what I see is a brag board of envy, a place to highlight our highs in life and to slip past our lows. I see a carefully constructed Sims world, where we tell one of our 563 friends that “OMG girl, you look so good in that dress,” and then talk shit about how slutty that dress was to our friends later. We are lose-lose in these scenarios. We are lovers and haters of ourselves and those around us. We have false idols and false lives. We are posters of fake Marilyn Monroe inspirational quotes and manipulators of photographs, pouring endlessly over which shade and tone slims our thighs the best. We are the writers, directors, producers, and actors in our own lives. And yet we remain our biggest fans, barely noticing the half-hearted groupies hanging on.
I am a 20-something, and social media scares the shit out of me. In ten years, it has manipulated itself from something timid to something dangerous. I am in the minority and I am not trying to start a revolution. I just want to express a state of mind, and hopefully inflict a spot of light onto your consciousness. Maybe next time you go to take a photo of the beautiful sunset in front of you, you don’t. Maybe you just sit in the quiet of the world around you, alone, and watch the sunset quickly fade. And maybe, as it sets, you don’t have to tell anyone about it. You can watch it slink past the skyline and fade away into the distance, and know that it will be back in the morning to cast a light on your new day. Regardless if all of your friends or none of your friends liked that sunset, what matters is that you did. And maybe we don’t need a heart or a Like to give us that satisfaction.
Like this, heart this, retweet this, scathingly comment on this and tear me to shreds behind the safety of a screen. But remember this: no matter how many selfies you take, no matter how many filters you apply, and no matter how many Likes your photo gets, we are all human. And none of us are getting out alive. So next time you take out your camera, think about capturing the moment, rather than capturing a moment just to filter and post it. Because remarking on everything remarkable, just somehow makes that moment extremely unremarkable.