Mark Zuckerberg struck gold when he introduced Facebook in 2004 by capitalizing on an intense need among the public, but it wasn’t the need most people believe it was.
It wasn’t the need to find an old pal from high school, or stay connected with friends as they move away, or share an occasional incredible experience or even to advocate for important ideas.
It was the need to perform — to constantly put on a show and to try to outdo anyone and everyone who’s posted anything that may take deflect attention away from yourself for even a moment.
Social media’s most massively appealing feature in our society isn’t the ability to connect people that could accomplish potentially world-changing feats. Instead, it’s the fact that it allows people to constantly keep up-to-date on the daily lives of their peers while flaunting their own intriguing lives for all to see.
This is an unhealthy contribution to society. Children and adolescents raised in this culture are becoming less like humans and more like PR machines every day. For example, take an astonishing sunset. The first thought in the minds of many is no longer to stop and enjoy the view, taking a moment to simply revel in its beauty. The instinct has become to add another scene to the performance. People want a picture of it for Instagram or a selfie with it for Snapchat. They tweet about it and add hashtags, captions or emojis.
After the performance is temporarily finished, the reviews are in: How many likes did the Instagram post get? How many comments on Facebook? How many favorites? How many retweets? Check, refresh, recheck. Again and again this happens, and it’s a constant, never-ending cycle.
What I implore people to realize is that it is all fake. I call it a show because it’s not real life. People aren’t being their genuine selves — they are cherry-picking and embellishing only the moments which fit in the performance they want everyone to see.
If you are reading this and disagree with me, if you think that you are honest and genuine on social media, that you do include all aspects of your life, then send your links to the email at the bottom of the page. As much as I would love to be proven wrong, I just don’t think that I’m going to be getting any tweets that say, “Shit, I didn’t get that job or scholarship or raise I really wanted. It’s probably because I’m unqualified. Oh well. #sincerlydisappointed #notblessed.”
But please, try to prove me wrong on this one.
I also think it’s fairly likely that you may be reading this and thinking something like this: “Why is this guy going on about an obsession with social media when our world has so many more important issues that need attention. He should be writing about those!”
And you would be pretty much right about that. This isn’t really a heavy-hitting topic, but it is one that I think holds genuine importance.
We are raising our children in this environment, but we don’t think of them as children, or our future artists, writers, leaders and change-makers. They lost out on the chance to develop a real identity, a true sense of who they are, because so much time is spent broadcasting the filtered, hash-tagged version to everyone else.
Now, as college students reading this, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder why this is particularly important to you. Most of us don’t have kids or spouses to brag about, or a new house to post countless pictures of.
But as it turns out, we are the main perpetrators of this dangerous culture. A recent Pew poll found that 90 percent of 18-29 year olds use some form of social media — the highest among any age group by a fair margin. We were raised in this culture, and we are the ones thirstiest for the attention, the ones that need to put on a show.
So it only makes sense that we should be the ones to stop it.
I’m not going to come out and give some millennial hot-take that everyone should quit social media because there are some incredible benefits and perks to it. But I do think we need to do a better job of keeping it real.
The best way to stop a show you don’t want to see is to quit buying tickets. So, next time you see someone’s funny post about how they tripped on their shoelace running this morning, only to flaunt to everyone they were out on a run, maybe just don’t like it.