i’ve been thinking about how fundamentally strange social media is, in how it presents other people for us. it’s given me the push to delete instagram, at least for a while.
it used to be, for the whole of human existence, that to find out what was going on with in someone else’s life, that you had to get in touch with them and ask. whether that was meeting them at their house, bumping into them on the street and starting up a conversation, or the slightly more technical methods of sending them a letter or giving them a call. Even email and text, still involved contacting them.
And the other method was gossip – talking about them with a mutual acquaintance.
in both situations, the choice was there. to ask or not to ask. and how often to do so.
now things are different. we get delivered everything to a device that basically acts as a mutant body part, constantly in our hands or our pocket. we get dings and buzzes and awful little red dots that draw us in ceaselessly. and so now, the element of choice is gone. we open the app, we are delivered everything that everyone we follow has published.
i was trying to figure out why i find following people so wearying. i’ve noticed that in the case of a blogger, i’ll consume everything they publish on a daily basis for 6 months and then all of a sudden i can’t take any more of it – my inner reaction is annoyance and irritation. why is this? how does it compare to consuming an artist’s songs or a writer’s books? I think it’s because with those, there is still the fact that when you pick that book up, you are choosing to read it. it’s not just being put in front of your eyeballs.
i concluded that we’re not actually meant to know all of this stuff about other people’s lives, particularly the airbrushed yet nonchalant type that social media essentially boils down to. if we care about someone, we will be in one on one contact with them, where they may or may not tell us about that quirky day trip they did last week. and guess what? that day trip and the knowledge or lack of about it, has absolutely no bearing on our lives! it’s not a loss to not know. it’s perfectly normal and rational not to know.
i likely sound like i’m convincing myself of a very mundane fact, like that grass is green and sugar is sweet. but it’s sort of revolutionary, for someone who bought into the social media thing so avidly, for 6 years. i do love people. i like knowing things about them. it’s why i got so much enjoyment out of the exercise. but i’m beginning to see that it masquerades as “keeping in touch” with people, when really all that’s happening is people telling me things in a sort of self conscious way. and i don’t get to tell them things back exactly, not directly. it’s a conversation in which both participants are wearing earmuffs. the humanity is taken out of it.
i’m sure there will be times when i check it. but i’m enjoying the freedom of not judging. not critiquing. only doing so with the things that really deserve it – books that have had rounds of professional edits and songs that have been perfected by their performer and producers. movies with a staff of hundreds. not someone’s quickly typed musings on something they did in their free time. there is no need to judge that. no one gains from me having a critical response, certainly not myself. and just maybe, by giving myself the room to miss people, i’ll reach out to them for real. only this time we’ll actually be choosing to hear from each other, and the earmuffs will be off.