Status updates, likes, comments. Tweets, mentions and retweets. Pins, repins. Stumbles. Oh boy, just think of how much communication has changed over the last ten years! We’re all interconnected, we’re constantly online and we feel this addictive urge to share it all.
Welcome to the age of social media – that awkward moment in time when society created unusual verbs to glorify pointless communication. When people began to publicize their deepest thoughts, beliefs and desires to hundreds of strangers that they so rarely get to interact with in the real, offline world that matters most. When most relationships aren’t considered real, profound or meaningful until they’ve been made public on Facebook.
Interconnected, yet more distant
Ever since I started using Facebook, the quality of my relationships has dropped terribly.
For example, my girlfriend expects me to tell her how much I love her online, to like her newest photos and comment on the love songs that she likes so much to publish on that profile wall of hers. But I seriously prefer saying ‘I love you’ when she’s next to me, then having a passionate kiss, followed by a loving cuddle. Oh, and I really like it better when songs are listened to when we’re together, sharing that musical experience face to face.
But it doesn’t end here. My friendships have also become a bit screwed up. Good friends keep on sending me messages, pictures and clips that we never get to discuss when we actually meet up offline. Instead, all they get to say is: ‘Saw that pic? It was awesome.’ It’s even funnier when you don’t feel like posting on Facebook for about a week or so. Try it. You’ll most definitely be asked if everything is okay, because you haven’t been online.
Experiencing vs. sharing
Let’s set things straight, right here, right now.
If I haven’t been online, that doesn’t mean that I’ve been sick. If I haven’t shared a status update stating how happy I am, that doesn’t imply that I’m sad or depressed. On the contrary – at least for me, the less I share, the more I experience on a deeper level.
In a galaxy far, far away, in another time, there used to be a world without social media. There, food was tasty without having to share pictures of it on Instagram. Movies were entertaining without having to tell 500 people how much fun you had watching them. Relationships were serious without having to make them official on Facebook. Then, suddenly a phenomenon called social media kicked in and gained wide popularity.
Experiencing something privately wasn’t enough anymore to make people contempt and happy with their moments. They became obsessed with sharing – no moment was truly experienced without it being shared with the world. So every time people went out, they committed themselves to showing others how much fun they had, instead of having fun. Things that weren’t shared didn’t feel real anymore, because the world didn’t see them.
It went wrong
A few years passed, and in that far, far away galaxy, people began to feel strangely unsatisfied with their personal lives, relationships and their crucial self-esteem.
Instead of connecting them in a more meaningful, productive and spiritual way, social media seemed to have alienated them from each other. People started understanding quite a few important facts. First, online communication wasn’t really as fulfilling as communicating live. Second, all that connectivity looked as if it was draining the purpose and joy out of offline meetups and interaction. Everyone was sharing so much online, that nobody had anything to talk about in the real world. Somehow, the element of surprise and expectation had drifted away, creating a stressful world of information overload and faux sources of identity.
Social media went wrong. People’s online identities took over, draining the fun out of their offline selves. Likes, shares, comments and retweets became a source of self-esteem. People weren’t perceived as interesting offline unless they had an impressive online profile with pictures of them having fun, visiting beautiful places and hanging out with friends. Those very few that didn’t have social media profiles were regarded as outsiders.
To do their daily jobs, people had to be on social media – because that’s where the work discussions were going on. From a choice, it became a vital-energy-draining necessity.
How this story evolves remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – social media f*cks with your mind. Because all these likes, comments, tweets, mentions, pins and notifications don’t mean a damn thing unless you have meaningful relationships in the real world.
Pictures of you having fun can only get you depressed if you didn’t really have that much fun while taking them. However useful, addictive or interesting social media may seem, you should always keep your focus on the real things, people and events that matter.
Hint: they’re not online.