With how ubiquitous the push is to “be on” nowadays, we’ll never turn down the opportunity to be reminded of what’s real. This article from Darling Issue 17 feels appropriate at the start of a new year — just a subtle little check of what we truly need.
The Social Machine: What it Can and Can’t Offer
By Melanie Loon
I once heard that Facebook is like the grocery store. Everyone goes, but not exactly to hang out.
You might see a friend or neighbor there and catch up on how your mom is doing, where their kid has moved, or what random groceries they’re buying because of yet another 30-second recipe video. Much like a grocery store, social media has a plethora of things in stock, but there’s also plenty you can’t expect to find, like restaurant-quality French toast. And if you run over there when you’re really hungry, well, it’s all downhill from here.
Craving substance, you might circle around aisle after aisle—scroll after scroll—hanging onto an unsatisfying cart for far too long.
All praise for the hunt of great breakfast food aside, how much stronger a hunger do we have for a substantial serving of intimacy, deep dialogue and a more balanced understanding of the passage of time, and time together?
Sometimes it’s almost like we’re window-shopping what we believe to be other people’s lives or companies’ character, picking up the stuff that says “no added dyes” but is at least a little genetically modified. We can’t expect this to nourish us. But sometimes the one-way interactions we have on social media aren’t so abstract.
Social media may be a diner open 24 hours, but there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal.
Sometimes they flare memories that are too hot to touch, and the Internet can feel like a court reporter with a megaphone, offering double jeopardy like it’s just a game of just one mindless click to find out what so-and-so is doing now.
But maybe you’re thinking, “What? I could totally live without Instagram. I get outdoors. I barely visit Facebook. That’s not even my real birthday on my profile. I don’t get Twitter. Who cares?”
Our ways of thinking and interacting as a culture has been altered by the pace and breadth of social media “news cycles”—the way we perceive truly honest intimacy, nourishing dialogue and the passing of time, and affirm those understandings to each other. In our consumption, we must understand what these sites can and cannot offer.
There’s such a thing as expecting too much out of vendors such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and various niche news sources (yes, blogs and larger manifestations of them). It can often feel like everyone is selling something because … oftentimes, they are.
So as we walk out to the digital storefront, let’s have an idea of what we need:
Our hearts seek to be known and understood. Knowing others in deep connection inspires us, makes us feel safe, and reminds us we aren’t alone in our struggles, triumphs or within the mundane course of things. Intimacy causes us to reach for more than just our own sense of vision.
Our minds were made with a deep curiosity, a desire for justice and truth. Unraveling our perspectives is best done together, where we find differences of experience and realize blind spots.
UNDERSTANDING OF THE PASSAGE OF TIME
If I said I wanted to grow in patience and asked you what social media platform I should use to attain it, which would you recommend?
You’d tell me this was a completely disjointed question. Social media, in fact, dulls our sense of time both in attending to our phones daily as well as dulling our sense of time elapsed between memorable events.
Each of these—intimacy, dialogue, understanding how fleeting time is—are needs, not just cravings.
Maybe our expectations need to be bigger—ones of our world rather than the structures we create in it. Virtual structures will always be two dimensional, but communication must be made of more than saying the same thing over and over (in the name of a consistent voice) to receive the same response over and over again (two word comments of praise).
You are part of a beautiful local and global circle of people, dynamic and inspiring.
Each piece, each person, fits to challenge and comfort like no follow count of virtual acquaintances can. The life experiences of those near and far, younger and older, can feel more like time traveling than any endless stalking scroll on Instagram. We’ll find no love and value in that.
Instead, let’s invest more into the strength of people uniquely placed in our spheres, rather than working so hard to articulate who we ‘are’ on the internet, cowering under the weight of the world listening.
Social media may reduce our news to tweets, our reflective journaling to the perfect combo of emojis, and cause us to take the term “Facebook friends” with a shaker of salt. Nuance desperately lacks in mini-statements that always have to be edged with a joke or a solid reminder to all that we’re aware of the latest pop culture references.
But true intimacy, dialogue and grounded understanding of the passage of time will always push us forward with every fiber of our being—not just the sweeping scroll of a thumb—will make us move with more than just a double-tap to support a cause or a friend.
Oversaturation is mesmerizing, distracting. Deep relationships are captivating, life-giving.
Beat Facebook to the punch when it tells you to tell your aunt happy birthday. Give a friend a call if you know she has a long day ahead of her.
Beat Twitter to the punch when you research current events across a variety of voices. Allow trust to grow when you ask your friends honestly what they believe about national crises, genuine empowerment, race relations and God.
Beat Snapchat to the punch by fully (and presently) enjoying a joke or a moment without having to let anyone know.
No, you may not offer me a store credit card, Social Media. I brought my own bags and I’m off to checkout.
Images via Jack Belli