Social Media - The True Cost & Value

IMG_9459-e1510770936144.jpg
Before I get into this, I want to say something. YOU ARE LOVED. I know sometimes it may not feel that way, but it is true. Not only are you loved, but you have immense value to this world. And, you’re really cool. Seriously.

7 weeks. I went 7 weeks without a single Instagram post. Hardly anything on Facebook over the same amount of time. Twitter? Forget it. I’ve been opening my Instagram for the last few weeks, somewhat scrolling through my feed, blankly staring at my profile, pondering ‘what will I post, when will I post, if I post? What am I doing right now that is interesting, that people will like?’ Because, honestly, my desk job is quite boring (as far as Instagram is concerned). And I haven’t wanted to do much since I got back from the-trip-that-I-can’t-tell-you-about-for-a-few-more-months…I’ve been inside mostly. Or working on the house that my husband and I are building and helping my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And working. And trying to get my website into a functional state, and trying to write my bio to appropriately reflect where I am (who I am?) at this stage in my life. And none of it is interesting in photographical form.  I could post an old photo, but what’s the point of that? That’s simply me trying to sell you on some part of me, which is only A PART of me, but not who I wholly am. But who am I wholly? Who are you? And who cares? I do.

The value of social media is something I’ve always debated. There is value and power there, but is it a value and a power that aligns with what I want in life? Does is support me and my loved ones in a compelling way? As I’ve taken a step back from social media, its “importance” has become more vivid. It is folded into our daily lives in a truly incomprehensible way. It is seemingly necessary. But why? It also became apparent, in my 30 days without a phone, that social media’s primary purpose is selling other people on something. Yes, even you are trying to sell someone on something. Yes, even me. If you’re not selling something, whether it be a product, an opinion, or a value, your post feels meaningless. But is it? At the very least, it doesn’t feel impactful. And if it isn’t impactful, who’s liking it?

If people will only “like” the most interesting and exciting parts of our lives, if we are constantly filtering our posts to show only those aspects of our lives, we are reinforcing some TERRIBLE patterns. We are reinforcing that we are only valuable if we are interesting, if we are fighting for some just cause, if we are daring, and bold, and beautiful, and edgily strong, and outspoken, and kind. But fuck that. WE ARE ALL VALUABLE. Even when the most interesting thing you do all day is add cream to your god damn coffee, YOU ARE VALUABLE. Hell, maybe you don’t even drink coffee. Guess what? STILL VALUABLE!

I’ve heard the argument that social media is a great way to connect people, to spread the word about (ahem, sell) a great cause, to make people aware of differing perspectives, to tear down barriers, to share, because as you know, there’s strength in numbers. But I’m just not so sure. After a month without a phone, I realized that there is more power in connecting with people around you. There is more power in connecting with a stranger, because they, most likely, will have a different perspective than you; at least more so than what shows up in your Facebook feed comprised of your friends or however their algorithm decides to show you information…

But I have returned. And why? I guess now I’m ironically trying to sell you on the perils of social media by using social media...such a hypocrite. Sadly, one of the first substantial things that I learned since returning to social media, is that one of my dear friends took her own life. I knew she was fighting an inner battle, had been through some rough patches, but from everything I saw on social media, she was winning that battle. Smiles, horses, dogs, bikes, friends, travels. These were the highlights in her reel. And no matter how many likes she got on these posts, no matter how many words of support and encouragement and love, it wasn’t enough. Suicide happened before the advent of social media, but the dichotomy that exists between what is inside and what is outside is far more transparent now. Not to mention there are scholarly articles written about the link between extended social media use and depression. Even more so than simply time spent online. We seem to be poisoning ourselves.

So, if there is one thing that I’m trying to sell, that I want to sell, it is this: please think about how you connect with people. Think about who you’re connecting with and how, think about the time you spend on social media and the true value behind the interactions you’re having, think about how you feel when scrolling through your feed. Does it bring you immense joy? Okay, then proceed. Does it make you feel down about where you are in life? Do feelings of envy or jealousy arise? Does it happen after seeing a specific person’s posts or when looking at most of your feed? Do you get stressed out thinking about what photo to “share?” Then maybe some changes are needed. Please, I beg you, unfollow someone if you experience negative feelings every time you see their posts. Even if they’re family, or a supposed close friend. If you want to punch in me in the face after you see my posts, then please, unfollow me! It’s not worth it.

Beyond how social media makes you feel, ask yourself how you feel in your own life, with your real friends who you see in physical form. Perhaps you don’t spend much time socializing with people in person. How does that make you feel? Content and happy? Excellent. Lonely and sad? Maybe this is an area that needs some work. Reach out to someone. Express how you’re feeling. Ask for someone’s time. We are all busy, but we all have time for a friend in need. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that we’re all in this juggling match called life, trying not to drop any balls, and prioritizing based on fragments of information. We don’t have the whole picture. Until someone says, ‘I’m feeling down and could really use some quality time with you,’ it may not make the cut. And instead of putting the onus on the hurting, try to reach out to someone today. A friend whom you may not have spoken to in a while. Let them know they’re loved. In Tricia’s words “be kind.”

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

― Mother Teresa