The Selfie World
I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and an Instagram account and a LinkedIn account...you get it! I use social media. Almost daily. I am not very good at it, but I do find it useful for business and keeping in touch with what is going on in my friends' lives and, (insert scream) politics. However, I find myself choosing not to peruse the steady stream of information on a regular basis. Over the past few months, I have become much more aware of how social media sites are allowing us to disconnect from reality. And I wonder how much damage we are doing to ourselves and our culture with this new form of connection.
Look around you at just about any given moment and see more than half of the people in your shared space on their phones. What are they doing? Most likely, they are scrolling through some stream of information where their "friends" and "connections" are sharing their opinions on everything from recipes to the president or posting the latest selfies taken and then edited within an inch of cartoon character perfection or seeing who is mad at whom and why. But they aren't actually talking to the humans that are within reach of them.
I recently attended a college basketball game at a local university and sat behind two girls who looked to be in their early 20s. Both were on their phones the entire game. One of them was communicating with a guy via Snapchat. They sent an endless stream of posed selfies back and forth for the entire basketball game, which was about two hours. I watched her preen and pose, making duck lips and rolling her eyes. She took pictures of herself from all angles. She would check the picture, and if it didn't meet her standards, she deleted it, took another one, and sent it on after adding some snappy comment across it. Since she was taking selfies and I was behind her, I was probably in half of the Snapchats she sent. I never made a face or actually photo-bombed, but I did consider it. (points for the considering part!) At first, I tried to move my head out of her shots because I didn't want her to think I was intentionally watching what she was doing. However, after a few minutes, I realized she wasn't paying any attention to me at all. I could have been naked behind her, and she wouldn't have noticed. I'm guessing the guy on the other end of the Snapchat might have. Maybe.
Later that evening, I went to a saloon and music hall to enjoy a band. I was standing in front of the bar area as the crowd grew. I was facing the stage and waiting for the band to begin playing. Again, I was observing all of the people on their phones....lots of selfies being taken, lots of live videos being uploaded to Facebook, lots of groups together looking at their phones and ignoring each other. One lady, probably in her thirties, stood a foot in front of me, lifted her camera, and took multiple selfies until she got the one that satisfied her. I spoke to her a couple of times during the process, but she never acknowledged me. I honestly believe she was so focused on getting the perfect selfie that she didn't even realize I was less than a foot away from her.
Have we become so shallow in our society that the only validation that matters comes from a social media site? Must we edit our photos so we can get enough likes to make us feel special? Can we only communicate with another person by texting words over a selfie and sending it via Snapchat? Does anyone have internal motivation and identity anymore, or are we completely dependent on the response we get from "friends" on social media to make us feel validated and whole?
I realize we live in a world of instant communication and constant stimulation, and I am not going to change that world. I also believe that there are lots of benefits to the technology that we have created. However, I am always hopeful that we can use it as the tool it is and not become dependent on it. I am fearful that many have already become dependent on social media responses and have lost the ability to self-validate and self-regulate. If we can't develop self-confidence based on our knowledge, achievements, family and friend connections (real ones), work and play, then how can we experience real relationships, real lives?
The next time you are scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, remind yourself that life is happening all around you. Get out in nature. Go for a walk without any electronic device. Visit with your friends and neighbors. Sit with the elders in your family and listen to their stories and wisdom. Seeing a picture of nature on Instagram is pleasing, but actually being in nature is worth way more than a thousand words. Getting validation from a grandparent is just about the best "like" ever! Spend time with those elders. They won't be here forever. Get out there! Live #mindfullyaware!