Social media is incorporated into our everyday lives. We bring real social interactions to a halt to pause for an Instagram post (“everyone hurry up and like it!”). We stop dead in our tracks to record a Snapchat of anything even slightly out of the ordinary. Just today I caught myself withdrawing from a face-to-face, one on one conversation so that I could pull up the Facebook profile of the person about whom we were talking. The blurred line between the real world and the online world isn’t news to anyone.
We can all, to a certain extent, agree that social media has the capability to hold us back from living in the present moment.
A recent NY Times article made a great case for putting the phones down:“One college junior tried to capture what is wrong about life in his generation. “Our texts are fine,” he said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.” So why do we continue to post, tweet, and snap?
A 150-second Snapchat story. Posting articles on Facebook on a daily basis. Instagramming twice in one day. In my circle of friends, these practices are generally frowned upon. A shorter snap story, an occasional Facebook post – completely fine. You have to post something. Why have a Twitter account if you’re not going to tweet? And this extends beyond my friends and what we consider standard. We don’t want people to forget about us, personally and even professionally with LinkedIn.
So why do we feel such a strong need to manifest ourselves online? Would people really forget about us if we didn’t regularly post? In terms of personal social media accounts, posting too frequently could easily be perceived as a cry for attention. If you don’t post a flattering picture of yourself, how will your ex be reminded of you? What was the point of working out all summer if it doesn’t lead to the ever-coveted “skinny” comments on the profile picture? And aside from these shallow motives for posting pictures, we all know the person who’s constantly posting political articles on our newsfeeds.
It begs the question: are they posting them to initiate a genuine, productive conversation? Or are they posting for the sole purpose of communicating a message: “I’m well informed on what’s going on the world today?” Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Mannersmith, a Boston area etiquette consulting company, told the Boston Herald, “As a believer in democracy, we need to have these conversations, but not on Facebook. Go to rallies. Knock on your neighbors’ doors.”
All too often we define ourselves by how others perceive us. A seemingly simple way to gauge this outside perception is through our online profiles.
And this makes perfect sense: on Facebook, we can be anyone we want. We can come across as an outspoken, passionate member of society – completely regardless of the way we act in the real world. With the help of a few filters and maybe even some Photoshop techniques, we can look flawless.
A need for validation is a basic human nature, and we as the generation of social media have sought this out through social media. But how deep is the validation we find there? Are likes, comments and RTs enough? Perhaps temporarily, but it may be time to step back and seek validation internally or – this one’s radical, stay with me – through deeper, face-to-face. Nobody wants to feel ignored, but can any of us actually expect to overcome this fear by taking so small an action as clicking a “post” button?
Who we are on a screen often says little about who we are in reality. Invest a little more time in appreciating the great things your friends do and a little less time pulling out your phone to record it all on Snapchat. Contribute to an online conversation in order to maintain a professional presence, but if it feels like something you’re posting lacks good purpose, there’s a good chance it does.
The people who matter should know your value, regardless of how much of it is regularly thrown onto their newsfeeds. So how often do you post for the wrong kind of attention? Comment below and let us know.