I have been thinking a lot lately about the amount of time I spend on social media sites. When I think about the cumulative time spent on social media between my personal life and the endeavors of my clients I find myself a bit frightened. Add to this the fact that I have been hanging out on social media sites since before they were really called social media sites and you have a lifetime total that surely dwarfs the time I have spent reading books, exercising and… well, you get the point.
My initial foray into the world of online communities dates back to 1980 when, at the age of 9, my trusty Commodore Vic 20 and I found our first bulletin board. Jump forward 33 years and nearly every device I use on a daily basis has the ability to connect with the world.
This social media connectivity is amazing and great for things like networking, breaking news, connecting with family or folks you haven’t spoken to in a while.
I also love the ability to discuss topics on a scale that has no limits or explore solutions to challenges that may not have presented themselves if we weren’t able to tap into a wide network.
Just this morning I caught a status update of a friend on Facebook that is living afar, which lead to a Skype session and it all had to do with figuring out a way to channel funds for education into a small community in Mexico that just barely obtained running water… LOVE.
If any of you have heard me describe the architecture of Opus One Winery, you have heard my glamour studio analogy. The concept being that for a glamour shot, the kind you might get at a mall, you get made over so the front of you looks impeccable. However, if you look at the view from the back you are likely to see ratted hair, bobby pins and maybe even clips to adjust the fit of clothes (in the case of Opus One, the back is a gray brick wall in the vernacular of a prison). This is what I feel most social media has become, a sort of glamour shot of peoples lives.
Everyone’s life looks better on social media. And that’s the problem.
I know this holds true for me and I would hope that as you read this you have the ability to look at yourself and admit that your life on social media is better than your life outside of social media.
In truth I believe we are all guilty of this to some degree, and I’ll be the first one to admit it. I know there’s been times that I have gone out of my way to share something spectacular, perhaps even more spectacular than it really was… how big was that fish?
Times when I went out of my way for the perfect shot or stretched things, so that I could share with the world in hopes of a handful of “likes”. When I’m honest with myself, there’s a reason I’m doing this.
Belonging, Significance & Comparison
Years ago I found myself at a jumping off point, admitted to a psychiatric facility and placed under suicide watch. I say this because I believe I have some experience with needing to belong and feel significant. When this all happened, I was seeking out anything that resembled approval.
My need to be significant was so deep it took me down a path that I nearly didn’t return from. This desire we all have is intensified by social media.
When you’re sitting in your home looking out the window, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special. But it only takes one friend on a beach in Mexico to make you feel less than.
That may be an extreme example but the truth is everyone’s life looks better on social media than it does in real life, mine included. Social media is partial truths. I get to decide what people see and what they don’t; safer short term, much more dangerous long term.
Because the abundant, transforming, valuable and beautiful kind of community doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories and breaking bread.
Looking through the rose colored glasses of social media and seeing the best possible, often-unrealistic, half-truth version of other peoples’ lives tends to push our envy buttons. We rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness… LOATH.
I will continue to open the window into my life with my photos, Facebook posts and tweets, as I believe in the end they help communicate what’s important to me.
Perhaps I’ll purposely start to post in a more #unfiltered manner, just to stay true to myself and I hope that you will do the same… a challenge.
Maybe we can spend more time sharing what’s behind our glamour shots, posting photos of a bad hair day, rather than a good one. Or sharing when we’re crying, instead of smiling. Maybe then we’ll be on our way to cutting through all the noise towards something more connected and authentic, right?
The very best things in life can’t be captured in status updates or filtered photography. Unfortunately, they are the things we don’t share enough.
Jane Peppler says
I’ve read, though, that people will mute you or unfriend you if you’re too much of a downer. And there is much mockery of people who post “spent two hours trying to get the baby to sleep” etc. Possibly people are seeking an enjoyable fantasy world online since they can’t have out in real life.
Grady Sibert says
I think my point is that I see too many people making a tremendous effort to make their lives seem better than they are and too your point, some folks make things out to be worse than they are. I prefer more real connections, with the ups and downs, and quality over quantity.
Cheers & happy holidays!
Alex H Yong says
Yes, social media is pretty much everyone’s “highlight reel”
Grady Sibert says
Exactly Alex and it’s totally understandable. I am just noticing more and more folks are working hard to exaggerate that reel.