I had just gotten off the newly renovated Damen blue line stop and was walking past Stan’s Donut shop around the corner, when I noticed a person standing on top of one of the swivel bar stools in the window. Initially, I was worried they would fall because, you know, swivel bar stools, but then I noticed a phone in their hand, and a friend (I assume it was a friend) seated two seats away, frozen with mouth open and a large donut en route to mouth, hovering two inches away from their perfectly straight, white teeth framed by perfectly straight, brown hair. Almost immediately, I stopped worrying about the safety of this teenager, and secretly wished the chair to swivel at just the wrong moment.
“What makes me like this?” was my fleeting moment of introspection as I carried on in the cold winds of the Chicago winter.
I walked away from that scene deep in contemplation about the wild world we live in and the lengths we go to stay relevant. The internet is in the hands of 40 percent of the world, giving researchers unprecedented amounts of information. This data accumulation can have huge positive impacts with things like disaster prevention and relief, and counteracting social injustices. On a grand scale the benefits are obvious, irrefutable even, but what about on the individual scale? How does this global connection affect its users personally, individually?
The average person spends 1.72 hours a day on some variation of social media, and in that time, we form relationships with our friends and families through their avatars. In an effort to stay connected and keep the people you know updated with things going on in our lives, we have sacrificed meaning behind things that should be meaningful and traded it in for the vanity of virtual acknowledgement and the promotion of personal celebrity.
Everyone knows what its like to login to their virtual avatar and have barrage of updates about vacations, weddings, babies, deaths, acquisitions. A friend of mine once said we are “measuring milestones with Facebook likes” and I have never been able to forget that short phrase because it makes so much sense. Is the cost of meaning, absence of reality and an attempt at celebrity? We are projecting our milestones onto a third party who sells the reward back to us through virtual encouragement, (Better known as ‘likes’ and ‘comments’), but is the amount of encouragement not adequate enough unless it extends to all corners of your networking group? Better yet do I have a right to question this if I participate aka. lurking and passing judgment?
This conversation comes directly from a reflection of self, an avid internet, social media user. I use instagram, Facebook, wordpress, wix, all on a daily basis, but I do not think it’s unreasonable to question something someone is willing to risk pending death by standing on a swivel bar stool for. Really, what is it for?
Instead of staying in touch with friends and family, social media has become the mutated step-child of something that was really awesome. It isn’t one person’s fault that we’ve created an entire generation of celebrities, with something to say and nothing to hear. But it seems like there needs to be a reevaluation of what has meaning in our lives, and is that measured in ‘likes’? Do we need to let the world know we are eating a delicious five-dollar donut, and if so, how does that affect the actual ‘eating of the donut’? Can it’s true deliciousness be savored after it has been used as a prop?
Maybe we are all just trying to fool ourselves into thinking we are doing okay, that we aren’t all falling apart because our avatars are doing so great? Digital media is an amazing tool, but on an individual level it doesn’t seem much more than a platform to propagate an abundance of self-importance and encourages a need of constant self-acknowledgement (“Says the blogger”).