Picture a family of four, sitting at a restaurant eating dinner. The daughter is contemplating what filter to add to her Instagram, the son is anxiously checking how the Mets did last night, and the parents are equally consumed with weeding through business emails. Sound familiar?
Our iPhones have practically become an outgrowth of our ears and hands. You’re nobody until you’ve established your profile in the online world — a vast archive of, what seems like, your every “like”, interest, and action. The impact of this is level of connection is much larger than a short attention span. It has developed a new method of interaction.
I find myself falling victim to this over-connected, over-public, over-glorified era of technology. If you’re not schmoozing in Beverley Hills or vacationing on the beach in Cabo — and, better yet, posting every glittering moment on social media — well then… what are you doing? We painstakingly select profile updates to better reflect the image of ourselves we’d like the world to see. By filtering every microbit you emit into the world, you can filter your way to the public presence you’ve always wanted. You can edit your pictures to look skinnier or tanner, post status updates of your attendance at a posh party, or just clutter your profile with narcissistic self-portraits (they’re called selfies, you say?)
If you live a luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle, it is just a way to further cement your high-class status in a very public way. But what if you’re not partying at the hottest club in Miami or hanging at the Beverly Hills Hotel pool? Where does it leave the rest of us?
It is so easy to “like” a photo, status, or page online. These “likes” quantify something that should be qualitative — an evaluation of one’s self worth. They reflect not only a positive or negative evaluation of one’s profile, but one’s status within the invisible race to the top of the social ladder. Suddenly, we’ve all become the Gordon Gekkos of social media; greedily demanding more and more likes to feel satisfied that our evaluations are still positive. These shallow judgments create a culture of people quick to make assumptions, entertained only by the most ostentatious, grandiose gestures of superfluity.
Our culture is inextricably intertwined with this silent competition for luxury. Yet the more time we spend pining over what filter to add and what photo to post, what are we really filtering? On the other side of the screen, millions and millions of people have become depressed vying to keep up with the virtual Jones’s.
Are we the products of a more narcissistic generation than ever? I know that I am guilty of much of what I’ve mentioned. I am consumed by technology. It nears obsession; whenever I have a spare moment — god forbid I am not busy doing something — I find myself desperately checking whatever social media site I can get my hands on.
Yet, I don’t think this fate is inevitable. That family scene doesn’t have to be laden with technology. We still have the power to shut down… If only I could get off this damn computer.