Trading Meaningful Experience for Social Media Content

Kids say the darndest things. 

They’re more perceptive than they get credit for, and their unfamiliarity with (disregard for?) established norms frees them to make unfiltered remarks.  (This is part of why I don’t want children – they will tell me everything I don’t want to hear.  And that’s a lot of stuff.)  Author and speaker Jon Acuff received one of those observations while trying to capture a Kodak moment with his five year old:

I said, “McRae, stay for there for a second. I want to take a picture.” Without missing a beat, she said, “No.” I asked her why, and in the way that only kids can, she threw a grenade into the room:

“No. I don’t want you to tweet it.”

Ouch.  Someone had a habit.  (Read his post here)

I know we’ve all befriended individuals who seem to exist in status updates.  With each new, exciting, or utterly mundane occurrence it’s like their brain process defaults to “share on Facebook!” Or twitter.  Or YouTube.  Or whatever.   We’re annoyed and wonder WHY they feel the need to advertise every waking second with pictures and video clips.  They’re obviously inconsiderate of others’ time and think the universe revolves around them.  I know you’re nothing like that, but before getting too judgmental let’s take a look at how we “normal” folk use social media.

A while ago, I noticed that whenever someone said something really funny, I’d think, “Oh! Gotta quote that.”  If I was inconvenienced:  “Ah! Must compile into witty complaint status.”  Then something moving might happen and, “Oohneedtelltohumanity!”

Now, I’m not one of those “friends” who floods networking cites with anything and everything.  I only create a new status once in a day maximum (with rare exception), and will sometimes go a week or two without sharing a word.  Yet in a time of instant updates, I don’t think I’m alone in my mental inclination.  Being bombarded with information in the Information Age, we’ve stood up to bombard in return.  The difference between the people who barrage social media and those who are more moderate is that the latter control the impulse.

Although you may be able to keep the impulse at an acceptable level, don’t think that it’s not a problem.  Even if controlled, I think it’s still a dangerous pattern of thought for a few  reasons.  The first is that we’re distracted from real life.  This generation has gotten so wrapped up in megaphoning anything supposed to be meaningful that we don’t allow our hearts and minds to absorb what’s actually happening.  We trade the joy and satisfaction of the experience itself for displaying a photo or 140-character description of an “experience” we didn’t even give ourselves enough time to digest; we’re mere reporters of our lives, not active participants.

The second reason we should be careful of media-driven thinking is that it causes us to forget that people are people, not content.  When Acuff’s daughter told him she didn’t want him to take the picture, he understood that she was saying,

“Let me be your kid, not your content, daddy.”

“Treat me like your child, not your content, daddy.”

“Let me be 5 and silly, without turning that moment into a tweet.”

Get this: not everything that is wonderful or momentous has to be shared.  There is a lot I don’t disclose precisely because it’s special to me.  Focusing on publicizing has the potential to strip those things of significance.  If I have a great time doing something with someone, for example, I’d rather keep it between the immediately involved, not because I’m ashamed of their company or wasn’t quite thrilled, but because it was valuable enough to slow down and allow it to sink in.

Third, it’s really easy for it to promote self-focus.  I took the liberty to make a “word cloud” using this neat tool to see what’s typically on my mind, and here’s what I found:

That’s kind of embarrassing.  There’s no ambiguity as to what I’m focused on: “my” and “me,” mostly, and a bit of “you.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a narcissistic life is a meaningless life.  No wonder I feel like turd so often!  This needs a’changin’, y’all.

So, I’d like to practice and spread Acuff’s message, encouraging you to ask yourself why before blurting out some thought, feeling, or incident for the masses to consume.

Has it just become second nature?  The thing that made you so happy/upset/accomplished/etc. – were you actually able to be happy/upset/accomplished/etc. in the moment, or were you too busy thinking of how best to upload it?

Are you broadcasting merely to talk about your encounters with people without having privately expressed what they meant to you?

Is it yet another chance to spout on about your “my’s” and “me’s”?

Or after having processed your experiences are you now communicating purely because you want others to share, at least in part, the goodness you’ve treasured?  And maybe share someone else’s treasures, too?

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2 Responses to Trading Meaningful Experience for Social Media Content

  1. tameekamarie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have had similar feelings towards social media. I think sometimes people lose touch with reality and nature. I still get on FB and Twitter daily because it is easily accessible from my phone but I don’t OD on the social media. Either way, I have to share your post with my 8 twitter followers!

    • Hey, thanks for commenting! And thank you also for the share!

      Yeah, social media is a great thing but, like any good thing, it becomes a problem when it’s out of balance (except for cheesecake). Glad you don’t let it consume you (:.

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