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The Social Media Mentality

Social Media Mentality

I feel like every time I go out of town, the news world blows up. Awful things happen. #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile #Dallas Weird new trends pop up. #PokemonGo And I’m off in La La Land with little attention paid to my social media feed and even less attention to traditional news sources. Which is how I end up looking like one of those completely out-of-touch basic white girls.

That’s not something I enjoy looking like or people assuming that I am because I’m posting vacation photos while people are dying.

The sad part is that people are dying everyday, and social media has made it nearly mandatory to make some kind of statement on every event that trends widely. You have to pick a side (#BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter), pick a truth (he resisted, he didn’t, he was justified, he wasn’t), and pick a worldview (Conservative or Liberal). Shades of grey or indecision start to look like insults to an entire people group instead of simple lack of information and/or understanding.

Which is why, when I get back from vacationing, I feel like I can’t make a statement. Like it isn’t my place. Like I don’t want to comment because even though I feel the effects of these events whether good or bad on my life, I feel inauthentic by making a public statement. It goes back to the traditional (and over used) “thoughts and prayers” that politicians and celebrities throw out after any and every tragedy.

Honestly, I’m tired of being part of the social media mentality that lacks authentic connection and is more about making a good appearance of concern or outrage or broken heartedness than actually taking any action in response to those emotions. But at the same time, I feel a kind of powerlessness to propel any kind of action into the world beyond social media—a world of images and emotionally charged words. So I end up stuck in the middle—exactly the place that feels condemned as a whole by the black and white of today’s online community.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media (Especially After the Paris Attacks)

Paris Attacks 1I’ve been feeling especially on edge recently whenever I go online. And let’s be honest, is there ever really a time when we’re not somehow digitally connected all day long anymore? I always cringe when I look at the “Trending” section on the side of Facebook because it’s likely to be some horrific tragedy or something stupid the Kardashian clan has done and is somehow noteworthy. And this past Friday I actually accidentally went on a social media hiatus. It wasn’t until I opened the Facebook app late Friday night after having a glorious time celebrating my boyfriend’s birthday, that I was inundated by news of the attack in Paris. And subsequently my news feed on all my social media platforms filled up with #prayforparis hashtags and images of solidarity with the rocked nation. It broke my heart to read about the terror caused and lives lost. Soon Facebook rolled out their “change your profile picture to stand with Paris” feature and red, white, and blue stripes swept through my feed. Then came the fear mongers with their “All Muslims are evil! And refugees can’t be trusted!” And of course, in response, came the opposite views of “Islam is not ISIS! Refugees are victims not perpetrators!”

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And amid all this digital chaos, I remained a passive viewer. I didn’t change my profile picture. I didn’t share a picture of the Eiffel tower turned into a peace sign with the #prayforparis hashtag. I didn’t comment on the articles I read on Islam, terrorism, and refuges. But I did become angrier and angrier as time went on.

Because first, I worried I might be perceived as unengaged or unfeeling. How could I not be saddened and horrified by what happened in Paris? Well…I am. I just felt disingenuous to share my immediate thoughts with the world through an overly used hashtag and image. Doing so would have constituted one of two reasons, neither of which I liked. First, I do have a worldwide audience on my YouTube channel. I very well might have subscribers who were in some way affected by the bombings in Paris. However, I couldn’t imagine that anything I said would have been beneficial to them when I’m so far removed from what they’re experiencing. Which leads me to the second reason for reaching out on social media in the aftermath of an attack—a reason of pure selfish and personal gain. Success in social media comes from jumping onto the latest trends and having something witty or controversial or memorable to say about it. And #prayforparis became a trending hashtag like any other. And while I don’t believe that the majority of posts I saw about Paris were made with the intention of selfish social media gain, I do think that we as a digital society have gotten too comfortable with the idea that we have a right to publically comment on everything that’s “trending” which includes tragedies.

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Of course, this all seems rather contradictory as here I am commenting on it too! And perhaps, I’m falling victim to the very thing I’m calling out as a sin here, but I just couldn’t take reading another article or post or watching a video where someone uses this tragedy for their own personal gain. Talking about it in an educatory manner, I’m okay with (and what I have set out here to do), but I’m just so exhausted with how “this incident” or “that incident” means “this, that, or the other” when it never had any correlation except for the fact that something happened and someone with access to the social media realm posted something about it.

I actually read a really great article about the 5 Things Media Does to Manufacture Outrage and it’s made me feel a little better about my uncomfortable relationship towards social media. While it has so many wonderful uses (e.g. Parisians connecting with lost/confused people who needed a place to stay or just general comfort after the Paris bombings with the #PorteOuverte hashtag), I think it hurts us in ways we don’t quite understand yet. I know I’m feeling it. I just hope that those truly affected by the bombings are able to look past the tumult of social media in the aftershock on this tragedy.

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Everybody’s Getting Married and I’m Not All Right

Marriage-1

If you use Facebook and you’re in your twenties you’re bound to be bombarded with the overwhelming flow of engagements, weddings, and general “bride glow” illustrated through a plethora of pictures and statuses in your newsfeed. It’s beautiful. It’s great. It really is. They all look so pretty and happy. Oh so very happy. (And yet somehow all it makes me want to do is cry and eat cake.)

Marriage-2

Mmmmmm, cake.
I’ve gathered from my parents and television that your twenties is typically the time that most of your friends get married. I’m 24 so only barely creeping on the halfway point, but this year in particular seems to have been when the shot was fired for all the brides-to-be to start the race. I’m sure this is only the beginning of the inundation of my Facebook newsfeed with Bride Pride, and it’s both exciting (because I love to see all my high school and college friends finding their Prince Charmings) and annoying (because I’m very far from a Prince Charming much less a Happily Ever After). In fact, at this point, I’m quite convinced that Happily Ever Afters don’t actually exist and that we’re fooling ourselves into believing that expensive weddings, white dresses, and elaborate honeymoons will be enough to satisfy a woman’s fantasy for the rest of her life. Disney, as much as you inspired us, you also ruined us.

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You made us impatient and foolish and full of fanciful thinking. You gave us false hope in finding True Love that would inevitably give us a Happily Ever After when it’s not that simple. And yet we’re still striving for it in those pictures. You can see it in the bride and groom’s eyes. They’re so in love and trying so damn hard to be the perfect couple. To be the couple they knew they could always be. No wonder we get Bridezillas, that’s way too much stress to put on any one person.

Marriage-4

You see we’re not perfect creatures. We’re too moved by feeling rather than logic when it comes to finding a mate so that we marry the guy with the grand gestures even if he’s got a shoddy relationship track record. And we wonder why our first time marriage divorce rate is so high? (45-50% in the United States.) But let’s not even talk about our second time marriage divorce rate…(60-70% in the the United States), it’s too embarrassing.
The thing is though that a lot of people I know and have grown up with and with whom I’ve fantasized about our individual “Prince Charmings” are getting married, and I’m just not all right. I think at first, when people started getting engaged, it just seemed like a distant “Well yeah, of course I knew they were going to get married eventually” kind of feeling. But now that the dates are rolling in, the knots are being tied, and the pictures are being posted, and it’s REAL. It’s “THIS IS OUR LIFE NOW.”
Why I think about myself collectively with my generation I don’t know. I’m not sure how many other people do that, but for me when it comes to big life changes that most people will experience I have to see it collectively. When we all graduated from college, despite our differing universities and degrees and future paths it felt like a big, mutual accomplishment. When we started getting our first “real jobs,” it was exciting and united. When we all start going through menopause I might finally feel back on track because marriage is a little different. We’re not all going to get married at the same time. Some of us probably won’t even get married. Some of us don’t even have significant others right now. Some of us love the single life. Some of us hate it vehemently. Some of us want to get married for the wrong reasons. Some of us want to get married for the right ones but are with the wrong person. Some of us just don’t know what the hell they’re doing. (This girl!)

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Sometimes I take a step back and wonder if I’m envious of these girls. If I’m jealous that they’re getting their “Happily Ever After,” and I’m sitting over here jaded in the shadows like a Disney villain—a fiendishly warped artistic rendering of the heroine princess. Well, at least I have no plans to curse anyone’s first born or put anyone in a fruit-induced coma. No, I think I’d rather figure out this life thing instead.
I don’t know if I ever want to get married. When I think about fulfilling that traditional feminine, “the husband is the head of the wife” role, I want to scream or punch something. I know that we’re in “modern times” now, and having a three-course meal on the table every night when your husband gets home and giving up your career in order to raise the children is not considered mandatory by most people anymore.
Although it’s certainly not completely out of the realm of possible expectations depending on the man you marry and his upbringing. Ultra-Christian men especially scare me. Being a Christian myself, every book and mentor is telling me to seek a man that seeks God first which is great, but sometimes there gets to be this twisted seeking God first turns into self-righteous blasphemy that “Christian Culture” (not Christianity itself) seems to accept if not necessarily outright endorse. Essentially, being an independent and strong-willed woman with a career-minded focus and personal goals starts to look threatening to certain types of men. I’ve fortunately never dated any though I have met them, and I wish I hadn’t. I’m sure it was useful to be given an illustration of who NOT to marry. But then there’s also the nagging fear that the older I get without a husband and still try to participate in church activities, the more resistance I might get from women in the Church (aka the wives). I‘ve heard the stories of single woman who are involved in churches being looked down upon as husband-hungry hussies. I don’t ever want someone in the Church to look at me like that. But because of who I am—a young, attractive, and independent woman—I fear that happening at some point.
All I really want is to feel fulfilled in life, and I don’t think that a marriage is going to do that for me. Facebook and all the Bride Pride likes to suggest otherwise—that your life is complete once you’ve exhausted all those creative DIY pins on your wedding Pinterest board—but that just isn’t true. Our lives are more than that perfect cake topper or wedding favor or photo-shoot. Our futures are worth more than the perfect dress or the perfect shoes or the perfect venue. Our “Happily Ever After” is more than a wedding. There’s the “After” too that we have to figure out how to navigate. A lot of my peers are doing that right now. I may never do it. I kind of just want to find my “Happily.” That would actually be quite good with me!

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I think if I had to put a moral to this, here’s what I’ve concluded:

  • All the marriages look like “Happily Ever Afters,” but they’re really just life.
  • There’s no point in being jealous that someone is living life, even if it’s differently than you.
  • Don’t marry the Crazy Christian who doesn’t accept women as individuals. In fact, don’t marry a man that doesn’t except woman as individuals in general. That’s way too 20th century.
  • There’s nothing wrong with the single life. Just live.
  • And finally, your life can be complete without a fulfilled Pinterest wedding board.

So everybody’s getting married, and I’m not all right. Not yet at least. It’s a work in progress. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy for everyone who is getting married. (Yay! Congratulations!) Rather, I’m having to learn what it’s like to be part of a generational movement without actually participating. It doesn’t make sense, I know. But I’m coming to understand that just because I’m not doing everything my peers are doing doesn’t mean I’m falling behind in life.

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“All the World’s a Stage”: Why Social Media Has Changed How We View Our Friends

Shakespeare-Puppet-Master

When I was in grade school (which in reality, really wasn’t all that long ago) there was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or one of the hundred other means by which we now socially communicate with one another.  If you were lucky enough to have a cellphone, you could text your friends, but then messaging was usually charged per text so you were limited on how much you could send.  In the end, we were left to the timeless communication devices of calling the landline, talking to them at school, or writing them a fancily folded note. I imagine tweens of today would balk at the idea of any of these options.  What a horrendous idea to take the time to hand write a note and then have the courage to give it to your crush in person!

Oh, how society today likes to hide behind their computer screens!  Gone are the days where you needed multiple dates, note writing, and phone conversations to “get to know” someone.  Now you can meet them once, friend them on Facebook, stalk their photos, twitter feed, work history, friends, exes, and family and essentially learn everything you need in order to make an “informed” decision on their character and worthiness of being your friend or potential significant other.

This makes me sad though—to realize that society no longer values face-to-face interactions or learning about other people through the unfiltered lens of real life.  Kids are growing up now, not trying to convince colleges that they’re well rounded and acceptance worthy, but rather, building an online reputation they find suitable to their social needs.  From this, it can be concluded that we no longer believe people are entirely genuine in their online presence.  That they are trying to convince us they are something they are not—they’re happier, healthier, more wealthy, smarter, more romantically sought after than they are in reality—to the point that we are no longer able to distinguish between the realities and exaggerations that people put out.  Instead, we become fascinated by people’s lives.  On Twitter you can follow anyone unless they have a locked account and Facebook allows for the most distant connections to be made if you accept a friend request.  Once you have access to their information and status updates, an entirely new world is opened up as you can indulge in a life that is not your own.

I’ll be honest, I do this too. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who isn’t on a social media website that doesn’t.  Whenever I consider deleting my Facebook because I’ve become so annoyed by the drama or the stupid, overused memes or fickle people, I nearly have a panic attack wondering “How will I get people to watch my videos?” and then, more embarrassingly, “How will I know all the gossip of my high school and college friends? How will I get in touch with them?” Then I remember I rarely contact them to begin with so why would I need to be so worried about it. I bet I could find their phone number somewhere. Or an address to write them a (snail mail) letter if I was really desperate.  But then how would I be able to creep on my distant cousin by marriage who has a really positive attitude and awesome kids? Or my best friend from elementary school and her fiancé and life post-college?  It’s selfish. It’s vain. It’s utterly ridiculous when I think about how much of my life that I should be LIVING is wasted staring at a screen wondering how people I barely know anymore are living their own lives.  Lives which through the censored realm of social media may be rose-colored and much cheerier than reality.

I would suggest that the problem with social media is that through it we use and abuse people.  They become actors in a grand play taking place over the interwebs in which we all participate. We are puppet masters in an odd way.  Obviously, we can’t directly affect what people do, but our opinions and judgments affect how people chose to portray themselves to us.  For that reason, we pull the strings of our brethren while also being controlled by them in a never-ending game of “who has the better life.”  We are all guilty of this despicable crime, but also innocent to the point that we don’t know we are even doing it.  We simply try to continue living in this highly connected, technologically advanced world that makes us feel more distant from our peers than ever.

Our “friends” and “followers” are sometimes more competition than inspiration and more enemy than friend. It is an unfortunate fact that no one likes to admit.  Instead, we make an effort to try to call out “Fakebooking” and try to be more real with our posts and images, but it is a difficult road to travel and not everyone in your news feed will be participating.  Maybe divorcing oneself from social media is the best means to get control of your life back, but for people like me whose business is run through the internet and spread through social media, I don’t have much choice. So instead, I have to try to determine the fine line between fantasy and reality and cut the strings from the puppet master. And more than anything, I have to make sure I don’t become a puppet master myself.