When it comes to these blogs, I’m realizing I’m all talk. I do a lot of thinking, a lot of writing, and a lot of talking, but not a lot of doing. In fact, I end up taking pride in the things I’m not doing because it’s a lot easier to not do easy things than it is to do hard things. For example, I like that I don’t look at my phone all the time or really look at it at all when I’m hanging out with friends. I like that I don’t overshare things on social media or post passive aggressive thoughts.
But I’m not doing the things that I say we all should do. I’m not sharing encouraging words with people when I should be. I’m not meeting new people or engaging with them. I’m not relating with my family or my neighborhood like I think I should. That’s because these things are harder than we think they are, but they are so, so important. It’s important to treat people like people, give them the gift of a conversation, and challenge them outside their comfort zone. Maybe the reason we don’t trust each other is because we just don’t talk to each other. I’m getting preachy, but it’s okay when I’m preaching to myself, too, right? I know inspirational words aren’t all that effective. Sometimes you just gotta do it. Getting started is the hardest thing to do.
All this to say, I’m a hypocrite. This post is about identity and how we create false external identities online, but the irony is that these posts are my version of doing the same thing. Maybe we can figure out together some solutions to the problems I’m presenting.
I mentioned oversharing and having phones out when with other people. I had a discussion with my dad the other day who observed a family out to dinner. The mother was struggling with their children while during the entire mealtime the father had his phone out taking photos, posting on social media, playing games or whatever he was doing. He might have been a little disconnected, but at least he was taking photos of his family, right?
In this day and age, we can very easily document things. Just snap a photo, or take a video, and post it to Facebook or Instagram. And that means we’ll document everything. Every meal we eat, every concert we go to, every friend we hang out with. Everything must be documented. But why? When people post videos, are they posting them for posterity? So they can go back in a few months or years to see it again? To relive that moment at that concert? I don’t think so. It would be a little cumbersome to scroll all the way back down on a Facebook timeline just for some nostalgia. No. It’s so other people can see that they ate that meal, or went to that concert, or hung out with that friend. It’s all about letting people know that they are the kind of people who would do those things, and letting as many people know as possible.
I remember reading an article about a teenager who almost committed suicide because he couldn’t take the perfect selfie. I don’t know how true the article was, but it made the point that selfies and social media can become addictive. The reason behind it is that it gives us the illusion that all eyes are on us. When we post that video, all of our friends can see it, and to us that might mean that everyone did see it. We feel rewarded when we get likes or favorites. Our self-image relies on what we post, and our self-worth relies on how people respond. It’s almost like our very identities have a simple rating system.
So the kid who almost killed himself was sent to social media rehab where they asked him to walk down the street without his phone. He quickly realized that not every eye was on him. No one cared how he looked and no one was judging him. How differently can we relate with others when we’re not so concerned with our external appearance or how we portray ourselves on social media? We are not images. We are stories.