Social media frightens me a little bit. Right before I hit ‘Tweet’ or ‘Share’, there’s always a moment of hesitation—”Why am I doing this? What am I doing this for?”
Social media has no doubt revolutionized the way we as human beings connect with one another. It’s instantaneous, global, personal, and has integrated so intimately into our lives, that most of us “live online”. We are constantly checking, constantly updating, constantly trying to do… something.
Like all things (beliefs, innovations, technologies, trends) that get picked up by the majority, conventions are created and then (implicitly) enforced by the society. And I’m a person who can’t help but question societal norms. Everyone has Facebook so we create a Facebook. Snapchat comes onto the scene, everyone moves to Snapchat, and so we start a Snapchat. We follow the herd because we want to belong.
This desire to belong—to be appreciated by the whole for who we are and to feel connected to a community larger than us—it is natural, no? We are social creatures after all. A baby that is neglected by its mother will die. A man kept in isolation might go insane. We yearn for deep connection and community because we are indeed part of the whole. And in today’s times, social media helps us do this.
But I cannot help but question if our desire to be appreciated, liked, and acknowledged for who we are and what we believe in dominates and ultimately dilutes who we actually are and what we actually believe in. I’ll be the first one to admit that at times, I’ve attempted to build kind of aesthetic—an image of myself to “sell” and “hook” people into following, sharing, and liking what I post. (Especially because I’m a creative who is trying to get his work out into the world.) Each follow, share, and like feels good; it’s a kind of high almost. And because I’m a person who believes in the importance of maintaining conscious-awareness of the present-moment, I’m aware that this pleasure of social validation has its pros and cons in everyday life.
I once attended a short course on “branding” which, put simply, is pretty much the image of a product, person, organization, or cause. I remember the man saying “Your (personal) brand is what people perceive of you,” and I immediately thought to myself, “Wow. So no one will ever be able to understand me. This is true because no one will be able to know the deep and detailed intimacies of my story, which constitute the reason for who I am today—getting people to understand you is an impossible task. If their image of me is based on perception, they are only seeing and understanding the surface level of who I am.
This realization naturally paves the way to talking about the human ego. The ego is the conditioned self; it’s who we think we are based upon our conditioning (likes, dislikes, beliefs). The ego isn’t a problem if you’ve reached a level of self-mastery that you’re able to tame it. But the problem is that this level of self-mastery isn’t a conventional norm and so ego becomes this problem in society. Most people don’t know even know that they’ve got an ego and how many issues stem from it (relationships, identity, disconnection).
Social media fuels ego. It fuels the reinforcement and the “building” of who we think we are rather than who we actually are. We are all participating in the creation of our personal brands whether we consciously realize this or not.
The dilemma for me with social media is one of being true. I’m at a stage in my life where being true to myself and to others is an important virtue for me to live by and this hesitation with social media is something that I’m trying to resolve.
As a person whose work lives online, social media can be a powerful force in helping to get that work in front of the eyes of people who care and will deem that work important. So for me, the issue is between sacrificing ME and my art as I attempt to “push” the potentials of social media.
This article may seem overly paranoid at something so simple as Tweeting—and perhaps it may be—but I’m astounded at the people who post the most trivial things with seemingly no forethought. Things like dinner at an upscale restaurant or an upload of a daily selfie. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these things, but again, because I’m a person who advocates conscious-living, whenever we are about to do something, it always comes back to the question “WHY?”
It’s about asking the question WHY whenever I’m about to do something online. If I’m uploading a selfie of myself because I’m embracing self-love and my genuine confidence in who I am, fucking fantastic. But if it’s a daily selfie and I’m doing it because I seek external validation for my identity, and underneath all of those likes lies a dissatisfaction in who I am, there needs work to be done.
I took a year-long leave from social media not too long ago because of these very thoughts, but as the vision for my work grew, I realized that I may be missing out on connecting with genuine individuals out there who appreciate my thoughts and the things I create from them. At one point, I saw technology and its innovations as “unnatural” because it was man-made and wasn’t exactly all trees and flowers. But I’ve come to change my mind on it—it’s an evolution and extension of the human wonder.
And so, to resolve my existential anxieties with social media, if I can always come from and share things online from a place of love and spirit, instead of ego and (sub/unconscious) ulterior motives—if I can share things of genuine value from the truest parts of myself, I’ll be okay.