I’ve questioned the “thought process” behind social media for the past six years. I remember when Facebook was first “popular” and I had no idea what it was. My friend and I used to discuss it on our walks, and neither of us understood the concept of “sharing details of our personal lives online.” It was just so foreign to us.
When I finally joined Facebook, a group of my friends from high school “friended” me. I hadn’t seen or spoken with them in years, and once I figured out how to accept their “friend” requests, I thought Facebook was the greatest thing ever. It seemed like a very fun way to stay in touch and learn about their lives.
It’s six years later and I’m still not a big “sharer.” I don’t like to post details of my life, because if you are a good friend of mine, I’ll pick up the phone and call you. For instance, if my kid’s team wins or loses a tournament, I’ll immediately text my family to let them know, so why post it online?
Plus, I’m still trying to figure out social media etiquette. If someone posts several times a day, are you supposed to “like” everything? And what happens if you post something and people don’t “like” it — are they sending you a message?
Another thing that has always puzzled me, is that if you’re having a fantastic time at a social gathering, and you’re in the moment, what motivates you to stop what you’re doing, take a picture and post it online?
I’m finally writing this article because I read a devastating story about a 19-year-old girl who was a huge social media user, and then tragically, she committed suicide.
From her Instagram story, she had everything going for her. This girl was absolutely beautiful, smart and athletic. She had offers from several colleges to play soccer, but ultimately chose to run track at Penn.
Her family believes that she became depressed while she was away at school, but you would never know it from her social media posts. She was always smiling and posting artsy, twinkling pictures that would make anyone believe that she couldn’t have been happier. Last January, she walked up nine flights of stairs at a parking garage, and leapt to her death.
The story hit me hard because in a creepy way, it validated what I’ve always questioned. Are people who continuously post creative and pretty pictures on social media as happy as they want you to believe? Why do we post so much personal information about our daily lives? Are we all trying to paint a picture that things are perfect when they’re not? Do we need the “likes” and validation from our friends to feel better about our own lives? Maybe this is just a way for most of us to feel connected in a world that is getting much less connected?
This is not an attack on social media or the people who use it often. In fact, I love seeing pictures of other people’s kids and feeling like I can be a part of their happiness. But are you really posting the whole truth?
This gets into an entirely different discussion about the “collateral damage” we are doing to others who see our “Look at me, I’m so happy” posts and actually believe that that’s true, when maybe they feel empty inside.
While smart phones and technology make our lives much easier on so many levels, if we had it to do over again, I’d never have bought one in the first place. We continue to detach from what’s real and hide behind screens looking for something, but I still don’t know what that something is.
I admit that I’m addicted to checking social media, and I don’t even post unless it’s one of my articles. I want to stop listening for the “ping” on my cellphone, waiting for a response to whatever I posted, texted or emailed that day. I’m aware that this bell can’t be un-rung, but I’ll continue to look forward to our special family moments, where nobody feels the need to share them on the Web.
What say you? Email me at email@example.com.