Have you watched the “Got Instagram“ parody yet? I laughed watching it, and of course, related. Everyone does it– clamors for attention on the Internet. Posts pictures about everything. Part of my chuckles was self-conscious realization of hey, I do that…maybe not to the same extent but there was a recognition of self in my chuckle. What is it, though, about the over-share, the endless outpouring of oneself online? Why the need to be sure that everyone knows what article we like, what a great day at work we had, what an AWESOME workout that was, or man, that delicious meal I just ate (“here’s a before and after picture!”). I hear it often when people start to lament about social media, the complaint often starts with “I don’t care what you had for breakfast.” Maybe we should go behind the surface of the picture and think about two things first:
- We’re online. We have to be online to see it. We’re scrolling through our newsfeeds, and then judging someone else for posting something we personally don’t want to see online. You have a choice — they have a choice. They post it; you don’t have to care. The way I see it: you choose how you participate in social media. So does everyone else. Everyone has a different personality and a different way of going about their use of social media. The judging that happens is so unproductive and possibly unhealthy. If you judge someone for posting a picture of an omelette, what else are you going to judge them for? Then what happens when you get to the big life differences? Maybe you don’t believe in personally sharing breakfast items online but to other people, that’s love. Just accept that’s not what you would do and keep it moving.
- More seriously, what is at the heart of posting a status or picture about what you ate for breakfast? (or any other daily life event for that matter). At the heart of it, the criticism captures it perfectly: “I don’t care what you had for breakfast.” Caring. Could it be that they just want someone else to care. To like. To like it. To like them. We all want to be loved, we want to be important, we want to be validated and cherished. Is that so wrong? In some crazy way, social media has exploded as a way for us to seek and give validation. It can breed excessive posting and overshare, but at the heart of the matter is the simple idea that people just want to be loved and seen and affirmed. I can’t hate anybody for that terrible and personal human need.
Finally, I was reading myself to sleep the other night and came across a line in my novel that perfectly captured how I was feeling that day about social media. I had been thinking about this topic and the things that are wrong with the Internet (the more I hear about possible links between social media and eating disorders or internet addiction and depression the more I think about this). And while I am one who can easily give up Facebook (I’ve stopped using it for months at a time and thoroughly enjoyed being Facebook-free), I still wonder what it is that we’re searching for in the excessive sharing and interaction of the age of social media. Perhaps connection. Perhaps more. Whatever it is, the next time you are online looking at those posts and pictures, scrolling through Facebook or posting your own, remember this:
That’s all we are, weak, important, ordinary, and human, so even if you don’t like seeing a picture of someone’s breakfast, when you see it, move on. You don’t even have to have compassion or find connection, just let it go. It might be one way to stop those endless cycles of complaint about others and judgment, which is so unproductive and contributes to a more unhealthy Internet environment.