March 2, 2014

Social Media: A Love-Hate Relationship

My feelings on social media can be clearly expressed by this sketch below:
Histrionics, pencil, 2011

Sometimes it's quite gratifying, other times it causes great grief.

Don't get me wrong--facebook, instagram, twitter, tumblr, and of course blogging are awesome. You often hear about adopted children searching relentlessly for years to find their biological parents, only to be reunited within days of a facebook post (one story here). And via facebook, I've even been able to keep up with my best friend from 2nd grade, who moved states away.

Social media is incredible for staying updated and finding inspiration (or maybe even doing some inspiring of your own), but certain parts never fail to prompt jealousy, insecurity, and bitterness.

Why didn't she follow me back? How come he unfollowed me? How did she get so many followers and likes so quickly? Why didn't he like my post? Does all this mean that people secretly don't like me? Oh my gosh, they got into premier colleges!...AHH, what if I can't do that?! Why can't I be on an exotic vacation in Cancun? Can you please stop posting so much?

And don't even get me started on how much time we can waste mindlessly scrolling. This old facebook status from a friend (who is quite studious) gets it exactly right:

6:00 PM: I will not internet. I will study.
8:00 PM: I will internet for 30 more minutes. Then I will study.
10:33PM: what is study

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to take follows so personally. Following should express how we want to fill our feeds, rather than social cues or quid pro quo. I wish it weren't such an unhealthy obsession, because it can't define our posts, our content, and especially ourselves. And you know what? We don't have to compare our lives to those of others. (Research cites comparison as the main reason that social media depresses us). It's easy to forget that we project airbrushed versions of our lives online. Sure, you'd immediately whip out your phone to update about a college acceptance, but would you even think of posting about a rejection? We're definitely more inclined to share good news and keep the rest to ourselves, especially since other news can come off as whiny or desperate for reassurement.

If we could see social media as merely an outlet to express and stay in the know, rather than an "avenue for social hierarchization," a means of procrastinating, or the entire picture of others' lives, so much grief would immediately dissipate.

So enter my 44-day social media fast.

I'm honestly not sure where I got the crazy idea. But I do know that over the past few months, I've felt dissatisfied with the role social media plays in my life. I've been guilty of all the behavior described earlier, and I absolutely detest that.

So from March 5th to April 17th, I will not access sites including but not limited to: facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr, all my fashion platforms, and even blogger.

While it coincides with Lent, my fast is more than a spiritual search. It's also a search for self-fulfillment and a social experiment. For this reason, I won't break my fast on Sundays like traditional Lent--this is 44 consecutive days (my church is non-denominational anyways, so it doesn't formally endorse Lent).

I hope to find answers, or at least greater understanding in regards to penetrating questions about my faith (prompted by a heated lunch table conversation about the recent creationism debate). I hope to do things I've always wanted to do but never got around to: finish reading Born to Run, submit a personal essay to a newspaper, make a circle skirt, journal at least once a week. I hope to reform my overly-sensitive attitude concerning social media. I hope to reevaluate the purpose of my platforms. I hope to live, without obsessing over my next tweet or wasting precious moments scrolling through the abyss of my tumblr feed.

And above all: by renouncing a facet so engrained in our culture, I hope to discover empowerment.

I'm actually beginning to look forward to this. See you in April.

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