You will never hear me outright protest against social media. You will never hear me whine about how social media forces us into an undeclared popularity contest to showcase our lives through an illusionary lens. You will never hear me complain about how the social media model prays on our itch for breakneck speed because we feel we the need to keep up.
Because all of those claims are unfounded, and assumes users are at the mercy of social media – without any freedom of action or choice.
The internet and social media have become the main stage of our culture. As the television was once our culture’s chief mode of communicating ideas and news, turning everything it touched—from war to politics to art into entertainment—today, social media has control of our culture exactly as television once did.
But there is a difference.
You right now, reading this article, are demonstrating exactly that difference.
You are in control of the content you consume. You are not limited by channels or TV guides. Better yet, you are even capable of sharing and engaging with the content.
What I am saying is not revolutionary or original in any way. But it is something that can be easily overlooked and ignored.
The options we have to consume media is similar to the way fast-food was consumed in its earlier times. It was cheap and convenient – yet the unhealthy qualities were overlooked for years.
The internet has become oversaturated with cheap and convenient content, and without a filter, users can adapt with an unhealthy appetite for poor media consumption. We sacrifice our most prized asset, time and attention, to maintain social media relationships that otherwise provide no benefit to us.
How did this happen?
Us as millennials, we are not that much different from our parents when we put it into perspective. Take a look: Our parents, Generation X, found success in owning stuff. We now know this is completely unsatisfactory to our lives. It is a reason why cult-classic film Fight Club’s famous line resonates with so many of us:
“Working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need”
– Tyler Durden
We, Millennials, have defined success as owning social relationships. Why? Because we are privileged. Our priorities shifted. We were born into the time where we must bear the brunt of social media anxiety.
Millennials hold the responsibility of looking through the world with a social lens where every moment is harnessed for sharing. We produce social capital. And with that comes a debt of social activity that must be constantly kept up with.
But what if we are consuming social media content poorly – similar to consuming fast-food daily? What if we are over-valuing social capital in an unhealthy manner – similar to Generation X’s itch for material possession?
A user online can consume a viral Vine, a news article on Facebook or an Instagram post in seconds. Yet in the span of a day, or week, we are left with no indicators whether the content we have spent our time and attention benefited us.
You don’t complain that you feel terrible after you’ve eaten a greasy cheeseburger, because you are aware of the consequences beforehand. Perhaps a similar standard should be set for the content we consume online.
Trim the fat of your timeline. Limit your hours of online engagement. Find influencers that post beneficial content. Question the way you engage and share online.
I didn’t realize how inspiring social media can be if you just followed the right people.