Once while I was watching the evening news, they ran an entertainment story on Adele. At one of her concerts in Italy, she addressed her audience who had their smartphones recording her performance. As the light rain fell that overcast night she proclaimed, “Can you stop filming me with a video camera? I’m really here in real life, you can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera. This isn’t a DVD”. The words really resonated with me, since collectively as a society I felt it categorized the recent trend of all-consuming social media.
When I was a child, I remember attending Disney World with my family. Although my father took photographs, the chronicling of the experience was in the right balance. The vast majority of the time I have fond memories of riding amusement park rides and collecting autographs off Disney characters. A generation ago, I feel a heavier weight was given to enjoying life rather than documenting it.
Companies have noticed this, and created features on their platforms to exacerbate this trend. As people provide status updates on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat, it creates a force to constantly chronicle life’s excursions. It also causes the user to be more mindful of a bigger audience. In the past, while people would send personal hand-written cards it felt heartfelt since it was a connection between solely those two people. There is something lost in the translation when everyone has the ability to watch the interactions like the audience studio of a talk show.
Napoleon once famously proclaimed, “What is history but a fable agreed upon?”. Social media has created a “keeping up with Joneses” mentality of trying to make lives seem more ideal than they are. Groups huddled for their fourth selfie at a crowded nighclub, using esoteric tint shades on hiking scenery, or sharing photos of food with people who are not at the restaurant shows how intrusive the trends have become.
Social media is a paradox of sorts. The benefits of connectivity and rapidness can also be its shortcomings. As technology gets even more intrusive with livestreaming, how do we keep social media in its proper limits? Are we living our lives for ourselves or for others? Collectively, are we are too busy acting like historians chronicling each moment without enjoying each moment for what it is? There is a Modest Mouse lyric that laments, “we get one chance to get things right”. When it comes to social media, it is hard to get to get the recipe just right.
As a society, we are at an interesting crossroad. While technology is increasingly more encompassing and distracting, the health benefits of focusing on the present moment are more evident than ever. From pop-psychology books like Eckert Tolle to affirmed research studies on mindfulness meditation at universities, there has been a huge chorus encouraging us to embrace the present moment amongst the cacophony of media. We are constantly reminded of this like an overused vinyl, but it can be tempting to ignore.
Social media has great advantages, but it is important for us to keep it in its right place. We can’t allow it to be like the undercurrent of a wave, it needs to be treated more like a book on a shelf that we can pick up when we want. It is time for us to enjoy the fireworks in the way they were meant to be experienced (with our cameras off).