Authenticity & the Judgy McJudgersons on Social Media
This morning I was scrolling Facebook and came across one of the quiz thingees that diverts you by the hour together, but also posts results to the oblivion of the user. I honestly didn't care and it's easy to scroll on by if one is not interested, but it got me thinking on all the criticism that floats around the topic of social media.
- "This person posts all the time!" (No actual judgement in the statement but we all know the tone in which it is said is usually holier-than-thou) As if to say, if they would've posted one less time that week, we would've deigned our approval. On the flip side we complain that some people "never post anything." Mercy, we just can't be happy, can we?
- (Someone uses the word authenticity) "Ugh, authenticity is such a buzzword, can't we come up with something more authentic?"
- "Social media is dangerous! People spend so much time on it!" I agree, we do spend alot of time on it, and it's too powerful to use carelessly, but so is sex and we're not stopping with that anytime soon. Now, ok, that isn't a perfect analogy because procreation is a little more legit than tweeting, but community is a big deal as well and social media has proven that powerful little tribes can be formed: supportive, caring, or for the flip side, vicious. IT FOLLOWS HUMAN NATURE.
PARADOXES AND BOXES
There is so much noise that surrounds the subject of social media. On one hand there are people who are trying to blow the whistle on it (but how exactly when they may as well be blowing the whistle on human kind?) and on the other the people who spend their entire day scrolling the screen and hopping to the summons of a royal notification. To go from hate to obsession isn't really making any strides and it's got to stop.
It's hard for people to stop and think about what is a wise, moderate course of action. More than that, it's tough to realize that our choices every day [in all things] have more weight on how we use social media than anything else.
The only thing that can come out on social media is something that is already inside of us.
If we are secretly trolls in the way we think of people, we're probably going to be trolls in comments that feel safe because there's two screens and miles between us. If we are the sort of person who feels superior to everyone else than of course we will look down on social media and people who use it and enjoy it. If we are obsessed with cats, we'll be the person posting all the cute cat videos. If we do not practice moderation in eating and discipline in our personal lives there's small chance we'll be moderate or disciplined about social media.
If you're spending 8 hours a day on social media then it is your life. Are you prepared for that to be your life when you're 80 and dying? It's not going to feel good.
If you judge everyone you encounter on social media for being too "perfect, inspirational, or "highlight-reel" are you prepared to feel disconnected from people? When we were invited out to dinner as a kid we would arrive to a wonderful meal and clean, sparkly house. That wasn't pretense. It was hospitality. We all knew these people had real lives, and no one tried to pretend bad things never happened. But we cleaned up nice.
A world in which authenticity is constantly held under a microscope for flaws - rather than valued and explored - is a scary place. Perhaps what we are really feeling is discontentment, envy, or greed? These are negative emotions to be sure, but it seems unfair to blame them on beauty. Sometimes it's needful to unfollow someone because I am weak in something, but my blame shouldn't heaped on the person who unwittingly triggered it. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a good thing and acting to counterbalance a weak spot is even better, but let's do take responsibility for what is ours.
With that in mind, the 3 guides I fall back on in my use of social media run thus:
1. Make sure I'm doing things for the right reason, and not for a publicity stunt.
I work to cultivate character and discipline aside from anyone or anything in my life. Or, in other words: be who I'm going to be without reference to what other people will think on/offline. It's the right thing to do: to become strong through discipline, to practice moderation, and avoid the traps that come with living excessively or for the approval of other people.
Motivation here is key. Why do we do what we do, and say what we say? I'm not suggesting full-blown analysis (though some degree of self-evaluation is helpful) but realizing that everything we do goes into the life we build. Practice authenticity as a rule for life and not just something you suddenly become mindful of when you post on social media. We think of social media as something that is not real, so therefore we pretend. But it is only as real as a party of friends, a coffee date, or a conversation. It is always what we make of it, and if we are real it is too. If we're fake, it will most certainly be fake. As with anything, silence is good and talking is good.
Think of social media as a real conversation or community and you will treat it with the same respect.
2. Be mindful
Dr. Caroline Leaf says that it's death to our brains to mindlessly scroll with no meaningful engagement, so after five minutes of scrolling we should pick something and really study it: look at the photo and take in the details, or read the caption thoroughly. If we are on Facebook or Twitter, for example, we should pick an article or link and go read it with full attention. Our brains have to have this critical fullness, or the cells will die screaming (my words, not hers).
It's why endless amounts of small talk eventually kill community. We have to sit down and really talk to people sometimes, for hours, on deep subjects. For social media we can read an article for 10 minutes, or watch a video that makes us think.
3. Watch for negative emotion
As I stated earlier unfollowing someone because we feel discontent is perfectly acceptable and healthy. BUT. Only if we accept responsibility for our own emotions. I recently discontinued following an account that I actually really like because it was making me feel inadequate creatively. I can't have that going on while trying to build my skill as a writer and lifestyle photographer.
We sometimes over-do inspiration and forget that hard work goes into life, and it's hard work we have to follow through on. If inspiration takes away our own ardor for life, then it isn't inspiration anymore, is it?
There is a point where we have to find beauty for our own lives through hard work and practice and mistakes, and negative emotions can signify that it's time to stop dreaming and roll up our own sleeves to have a picnic with our kids, write a few more thousand words, or design a pair of shoes.
That's it. It was a one-sided letter so far, so what do you think?