The rise of social media platforms have only grown exponentially with the introduction of smartphones and app stores. Not to mention the sheer number of dating apps which have also sprung up, there are hundreds if not thousands of social platforms in which we use multiple times per day. We voluntarily share gigabytes upon gigabytes of information on these platforms with those we approve. I recently took a couple of weeks off of Facebook to break up the normal routine, but also to see how must truly changes within my social circle of friends and family when I’m learning some of this information firsthand. During this time, I also came to the realization that what I post on social media is not myself. What I post is genuine, true, and reflective of who I am, but it is not me. At least, not all of me. What do I mean, you may be asking yourself. Well, I tend not to post negative things on social media. I attempt to avoid post thing about how I’m feeling the ‘blues,’ or things of that nature. Everybody feels these things, everybody feels and thinks things that they do not make public or voice aloud. Often these feelings or thoughts are irrational and do not represent our mental health or being. However, I try not to air my problems, complaints, or hurts out on social media. This is where my social media self begins to look different than myself. I, too, use to use Twitter, and to this day still have an account. I no longer check or use that account, but my blog posts to it. In the use of these systems, I slowly began to see how their use affected my mentality and emotions.
Facebook is a strange place these days. It’s a cookbook to some, a diary/journal to others, and to the rest, a collection of ‘friends’ that we only sort of know, or met that one time, at that one place, for that one thing, about some other guy’s brother’s cousin’s sister’s mother’s aunt’s pet. No matter how you use Facebook, you’ve run into some sort of stereotype of one of these people. Returning to my comments on posting only positive things, that is ultimately what we end up seeing. So and so are on vacation to Disney, or this and that are traveling abroad in some far off country. We get a glimpse on the happenings of the lives of others, and subconsciously begin to compare ourselves to them. We compare our lives against their’s. We base our successes against theirs, our failures against theirs, and so on. Take for example this woman, Zilla van der Born, who travelled the world via Photoshop and tricked her social media friends into believing that it was reality. She explains her purpose of this grand deception, “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media – we create an ideal world online which reality can no longer meet. My goal was to prove how common and easy it is for people to distort reality. Everyone knows that pictures of models are manipulated, but we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.” Let us face some facts, everyone, we willing deceive ourselves just as much as we think that we do not. While we’re living in a delusion, anyone want to go to Disney with me? No? Okay… *Photoshops self into lonely photo in front of the Magic Kingdom*
I do not want to speak in hostility toward social media platforms. They provide a plethora of tools and means to remain in contact with those who are within our sphere of influence, but are not exactly invested in our lives, like your fourth cousin’s cousin that you met at that family reunion last year. While our personal relationships are built upon words, looks, and touches, our digital connections a built upon likes, comments, and in some cases, subscriptions. The largest issue, which can be seen in the example of Born, is that we can falsely represent ourselves or willing create a separate persona for ourselves. Mix anonymity into the fold, and all sorts of chaos can occur.
A friend of mine, a dedicated Twitter user, a Tweeter(?), decided to leave the platform for some time for many reasons. I recognize many of these reasons for the departure, but this person said this, “I have yet to find something positive that has come out of Twitter. It’s just a glorified diary for some. For others it’s a place to tear people down.” While I try to juxtapose both positives and negatives of any issue, Twitter has become a haven for people using anonymous accounts to spread hate, insults, and engage in all sorts of debauchery. With the cusps of the presidential campaigning, Twitter has become a madhouse. When we’re surrounded negativity, how does it affect our health? How does this affect our mentality? We can easily be drawn into this sort of behavior when we surround and immerse ourselves in this form of community. So are we living in the Matrix? Perhaps, and we’ve voluntarily chosen to remain in it. The people we think we know are really just a facade of the real versions of themselves. Never judge a book by it’s cover, yet that is what we do when we engage in social media. So how can we get to know our friends better? How can our ‘friends’ become friends? How can we move from superficial relationships with one another?
I just recently listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler at the Village Church which I found some new insight regarding Jesus and the Samaritan woman. I suggest that you listen to the sermon for yourself, but I am not going to go into detail in the post about it. We all need to be more intentional in our relationships with others. This requires us to open up to others, but no one wants to feel vulnerable. Chandler explains the difference between being transparent and being vulnerable, but I suggest that you give the link above a listen. As we engage and fellowship and do life together, we must be willing to open up to one another. To get to know one another. To share with one another. Social media is only social if there is some relationship that is already established. All relationships require nurturing, attention in order to maintain them. Simple likes, comments, pokes are not the means by which our relationships are maintained. I try to keep this in mind as I peruse social media platforms. To maintain a sense that what I see is not a full representation of reality, but a glimpse at part of a person. Thank you for reading and as always have a good evening.