Social media is a reality of modern life, especially for millennials who are often criticized for their constant use of it. And despite criticisms, there are aspects of this new reality that are truly beautiful. We can connect to our friends and family, even those who are far away, share in each other’s triumphs, support each other when times are difficult.
People engage with news organizations, and with each other. Causes are promoted. Social movements begin on social media and spill over, out of millions of computer screens into real progress.
Social media has permeated nearly all aspects of life and at times this can detract from the experience of life.
Most of the social media users of the world, or at least all of my friends, have selected a favorite app or website out of the many, many options and the pressure we put on ourselves to share everything in our lives on that platform can be enormous.
For me, it’s Snapchat.
I was in Asheville a few weeks ago for a long weekend vacation, standing in the middle of a spontaneous drum circle in a square downtown (Asheville is funky and I highly recommend it, especially for anyone who appreciates craft beer). I was surrounded by dozens of people who brought whatever percussion instrument they owned and were playing. Kids were running around, people were dancing. And I was trying to get the best video for my story.
Then, just as I was about to hit send, my phone died.
Not having the option to post stories to my Snapchat (or take photos for Instagram, or construct a clever tweet, or whatever else I could have been doing) was extremely liberating and forced me to become a participant in the moment again instead of just being a spectator of it.
I did not post the video of the drum circle, or photos of the belly dancer at the Moroccan restaurant where I ate dinner. I did not post about all the craft beer I tried at some of the cool Asheville breweries. I did not post about all the fun I was having because I was just having it.
The idea of disconnecting from our phones so that we can connect with the people and experiences around us is an exceptionally simple concept, but it can be a hard one to follow. I find this is especially true when all around us people are using social media to show the world what cool places they are seeing, how interesting their activities are, what a great time they are having.
It’s as if the measure of how valuable we are, the things we do, the people we date is measured by how many likes or favorites or views we’re getting, and that is not healthy.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to include the people in your life in what you do, and social media can be a great way to do just that, but it crosses a line when it becomes a way by which we validate ourselves. And it can really detract from the real life experiences happening beyond our smart phones.
If you don’t Snapchat it, did it really happen? I promise it did, and it probably happened better than it would have otherwise. Sometimes it is best to leave our social media network behind and just enjoy what we are getting to be a part of.