Gee, I wonder if this post will be Instagram worthy? Or, maybe folks on Snapchat will snap or chat or whatever it is that they do for years to come? Better yet, famous people might actually tweet about it and then, my husband and I will get out of ‘bot’ status on his Twitter feed and we can graduate to ‘real person’ status, according to its hierarchy attached to the number of one’s followers?!? Forgive me for thinking so, but I assumed that we were flesh and blood people to start with, no?
My friends, what the heck has happened to good old-fashioned living and face-to-face communication? Since when has it become that the vast, world-wide web network should dictate mine and others’ choices such that our lives revolve around making sure that everything that we do conjures up a certain number of likes, followers, tweets, snaps, and chats otherwise, they are not worth doing?! Like, wow! Nowadays, truly living one’s life apparently includes the constant worry of measuring up or worse yet, NOT measuring up? Sure, we all know that as social, intellectual beings, we have a long, recorded history of civilization wherein we have literally survived by comparing ourselves to others as we assess our environment and our place in it and thank goodness for that. But, that is not what I am talking about here. As a society, we have reached a whole new level of comparison based on what I call false standardization, a set of ever-changing standards determined by ‘popular’ trends versus more traditional, empirically researched data used to help relay a continuum of what is acceptable and what is not. The problem is that these rapidly evolving, digital expectations are happening at the cost of epidemically rising mental, physical and emotional health issues never seen before. According to Victoria Prooday, a registered Psychotherapist and Occupational Therapist, there has been a “100% increase in suicide rate in kids 10-14 years old”, with one in five having a mental health problem. While Ms. Prooday’s article addresses only children and the plethora of issues plaguing them, screen time is a huge part of the problem for both them and their parents who are often “digitally distracted” by many of the social media engines mentioned at the beginning of my post.
Let’s face it, each generation has and will continue to face their own fair share of obstacles, but generally speaking the hope has always been that with each passing decade, we are bettering ourselves and the world we live in. Have advancements been made in our part of this twenty-first century, first-world living? Indeed, many! However, I will admit that I do worry about the future and where it is exactly that we are all headed, especially as we raise, educate and interact (or not interact) with our little ones who will one day be left on their own to navigate this place called, Earth. What will their coming years look, feel and sound like given our present-day doings? I personally hope it has less to do with coasting through life via screen time and virtual living and more to do with real-time, real place living.
Isn’t living life supposed to be about carving out our own path while enjoying the company of loved ones, relationships, work, school, travel, volunteerism, giving back to the community, finding our passions, discovering hobbies, learning from past mistakes, celebrating milestones, grieving losses, leaving the planet a better place and making our mark whilst helping others? My intention behind this entry is not to slag technology and/or social media, which I happen to like and am presently using a form of as I type on WordPress. However, I think we all need to be VERY careful, young and old alike, that we do not blur the lines between ‘wanting’ to use media venues to express ourselves and ‘needing’ to use them to affirm who we are as people. I am happily blogging right now, but I am NOT on here to simply garner likes and follows because I ‘need’ them to self-affirm, though I do obviously appreciate a smile, comment or thumbs-up:-). In fact, we all like it when we get acknowledgement from others–we always have and always will–especially if the approval comes from those that we care about and/or are invested in. It is a part of our evolutionary DNA. Unfortunately, there is evidence that there is a vastly growing percentage of our population (children, youth, and adults included) whose well-being and self-worth seems to dangle in mid-air, as they await approval/dings from anyone and everyone, based mostly on superficial nods toward ‘things’, some of a very personal nature, I might add. (‘Selfies’ of one’s private parts come to mind specifically).
Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of good that can come from the digital age that we live in, including social networking sites– herein, I think of ‘Gofundme’ initiatives, inspirational stories of change, connecting with long-lost loved ones (even strangers) across thousands of miles, etc. The key is that one has to have the knowledge of when and how to use various apps/platforms/websites, such that our livelihood does not solely depend upon them–something we need to explicitly teach our children, who are most vulnerable. I cringe when I hear others making decisions of what to post or say based on what they think will generate the most interest versus what might be their authentic voice. I don’t care what your couch looks like in the angle of the sun or how many times your dog yodels or what colour you want your hair to be based on the latest Hollywood trends. Am I interested in you, as a person? Yes! And, if furniture is your thing and you are looking for honest feedback, great, but if you want me to like or follow your dog’s habits on a daily basis because it is what’s trending and ‘blankety-blank’ is doing it, then count me out. Likewise, in that I would expect you to tune me out if you figured that I was simply “in it to win it”, so to speak. I am all about supporting each other in this journey of ours, one of the reasons I enjoy this venue of writing, but not at the cost of losing my own identity, my authenticity.
The question is, do some folks even know who they are or what they really stand for? Certainly our little ones don’t have a full sense of self yet and for that reason alone, we need to protect them by putting boundaries in place from an early age whilst teaching them self-worth and engaging them in activities that help them determine their own likes/dislikes. Under NO circumstances should any of us be waiting for someone else (those often not personally invested in us at all) to TELL us who we are and/or what we should think or do. We are worthy because of who we are, not because of how many Instagram followers we have.