Nowadays, social media has become the lens through which we view most people. It’s in simple comparisons that we can see just how significantly culture has evolved. When I was in elementary school, we used to wrack our brains trying to figure out our teachers’ first names from their initial alone. Today, my younger cousins simply whip out their tablets and phones and run a Facebook search to see if they can find their teachers online. Now, that doesn’t sound too terrible, does it? Naturally, there’s bound to be a fascination if the answers are but a click away.
All the same, the thing is that this fascination has turned into an obsession, which in turn has become a way of life. As a society, we look at everything through a filter; call it Valencia, Lo-Fi, Mayfair, or whatever you wish.
Now, before I launch my attack, let me clarify that I’m not criticizing everything about social media. After all, there is nothing wrong with social media’s active role in our culture today, though even that is only to a certain extent. For example email, Skype, FaceTime, LinkedIn and other services have contributed immensely to the innovation of global communications. We can keep in frequent touch with loved ones across the world with the simple touch of a button. That’s amazingly convenient.
However, we have taken our love for social media and turned it into something perverse: social media has now become our measuring spoon for the level of happiness in our lives. It may sound dramatic, but it remains very true. Our measure of self-worth depends on the number of likes we get on Facebook and the amount of followers we have on Instagram. People have always looked outward for validation, such is the human condition. The worrying thing is that, today, this need for recognition can only be met when someone double taps on your photo.
As a result, the standards for self-worth have been severely lowered to the point that, unless you document every waking moment of your life, you are not living. So, please document your food, your clothes, your face, your love life, your workplace, your schoolbooks and your friends because, unless you do, you have none of those things. As a result, your life is not legitimate until we know all about it; you are not legitimate unless I can confirm it.
Another drawback of this new human condition is the threat it poses to the art of conversation, be it online or face-to-face. Daily interactions have now been reduced to a series of emoticons, LOLs, WTFs, and SMHs. This, of course, is most prevalent with Generation Y – ours in case you were wondering. When it comes to our conversations in the real world, most of the time we’re too busy focusing on those on our screens to even pay attention to those right in front of us. Anyone remember the last time they had dinner with their family or met friends at a café without once looking at their phone?
I thought so.
Speaking of friends, I have 695 of them online. Yep, that’s right. If you have more, give yourself a well-deserved tap on the back, as that clearly means you’re better than me. Evidently, quantity is better than quality; and the more validation you have on social media, the better you are as a person. That said, the quality of the conversations we have with those virtual “friends” certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of stimulating the intellectual facets of our minds through a meaningful exchange of ideas, we now choose to punctuate our dialogues with pictures from 9GAG, Imgur and Reddit.
Of course, this is but a mere generalization. However, it remains a generalization grounded in the sad truth: intellectual stimulus has become the exception, and mind-numbing conversation, the norm.
Then, there’s also the ridiculous amount of time we spend browsing social media on a daily basis. It’s now a ritual to reach for your phone first thing in the morning, and fall asleep with it on your face at night. After all, it’s what keeps us “connected” to the world outside. Nonetheless, it’s a shame how, even in the private sphere, we lack the desire to stimulate our minds. As a result, social media has reduced society’s version of living to simply watching people live.
It’s crazy how we now live in a society where it’s acceptable to walk around with your face glued to your phone screen and your headphones shoved into your ears, entirely cut off from the rest of the world directly around you. It’s quite a scary picture to paint: hauntingly silent streets where everyone is there, but is too busy vicariously living their lives through their virtual selves to really be there. They communicate, validate, appreciate, lament, live and die, logged on to the Net, yet logged out from reality.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the new human condition: living one’s life through the lens of social media. Most of us have already succumbed to this condition; the only variable is the degree to which we suffer from it.
That being said, do read my thoughts on Twitter (@anerinanavaty), friend me on Facebook, stalk my life on Instagram (aneri.nanavaty), and watch my videos on YouTube (youtube.com/anerinanavaty). While you’re at it, just validate my entire existence please.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.