Questioning life’s digital meaning one blog post at a time

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?

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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”).

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4 thoughts on “Questioning life’s digital meaning one blog post at a time

  1. I am immediately drawn into your critique with that scene you describe in Stan’s donuts, a place I absolutely adore and not far from where I sit right now responding to your critique. The man/woman is too perfect, the moment so scripted, that I agree with you and want to spin the stool around myself and see where (s)he lands. I also appreciate the bifurcation of “grand” and “individual,” as it helps to specifically clarify your frame (which will delight the blog author of “Translating . . .” by its own usage of generalizations).

    Now, I do have a question in your third or fourth paragraph. You suggest that by using social media we have “sacrificed meaning behind things that should be meaningful.” Yet who is to say by publicizing something that we are “sacrificing meaning”? How, exactly, is meaning changed or altered? Perhaps you approach an answer (or at least a question) further down in your critique: “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?” That, to me, is the heart of the matter. Are we missing out on one type of experience (the eating of the donut, including the friend, the ambience etc…), to partake in another (the shaping of our online persona)? I’m glad you brought this up.

    What is “self-importance” and “self-acknowledgement? Further, where in the past did we seek these out? Are you suggesting social media is making us feel like we are self-important (more so than in the past), and if so, I ask, what is so wrong with that? Is it wrong to focus on image and how we present ourselves to the world? Could social media be used to supplement actual experience? An additional issue might be why we, as individuals, feel so lonely. This drive for recognition might have something to do with the psychic distance in which we live much of our lives. And I’d be interested in comparisons of social media usage in countries that value community more than we do. Are they having less communal experiences due to social media? This is an interesting critique that lends itself to a host of other questions.

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  2. I think it’s great that you both agree and disagree in one way with digital media. It is both useful, and just an altered version of “life”. There are benefits to social media as well, but sometimes, it sets people up to become an ideal version of themselves – an avatar. although, the only thing that confused me was the intro from the swivel and train stop. maybe I just want to learn more on that significance. Overall, great connections. well done.

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  3. I could not agree with the author more when finish reading the article. Social media is very cool and takes the majority of time to almost everyone. The scene described in the first paragraph could not be more vivid, which also got the author thinking about it, and then led to next paragraphs. I agreed with author on people keep noticing their moves on the social media, and spend less time bonding with their family and friends. The author addressed his/her own point on this phenomenon and wrap up with a punch point. I think this whole article is well-structured and very thought-provoking.

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  4. I really like how the author starts off with the donut experience as well as ending with it. It shows that the piece is a whole and it was consistent all the way. It’s true that some fool themselves, thinking that their okay, but others are actually blinded. What I noticed on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, is that my friends constantly post pictures and updates. For what? Who’s asking? For entertainment? It seems like they get a sense of accomplishment by getting more likes and comments. It’s sad that we live in the web more than we do in reality and I’m guilty of it as well.

    – Aaron

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