The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

Now, before all you SocMed-junkies wearing Team Zuckerberg t-shirts go all getting defensive, let me explain.

I am as big a Facebook fan as the next girl. I post pictures of my kids. I share funny anecdotes. I repost quotes that inspire me. I make all the comments and  insert all the sad smiley emoticons in all the right places…

When I joined Facebook, it put me in touch with friends I had not seen in years, gave me glimpses into people’s lives I would have never otherwise seen. A new, technological intimacy. It’s all very intriguing. In a way the progressive leaps and bounds of social media has made us feel connected to the free world in a way that nothing else can.

And in another way it disconnects us from all that is real.

Lori and I recently became aware that we were headed for the dead zone known as writers block. Feeling foggy, irritable and misdirected, we decided that checking Facebook umpteen times a day was only exacerbating the situation. So we underwent a social experiment and decided to avoid Facebook altogether for 48 hours. The results were promising, and afterward, we both came to the conclusion that social media is slowly pilfering away our souls.

Here’s how:

1-  Comparison

Facebook_like_thumbEvery person reading knows what I’m talking about: You see a picture of your best friend drinking a milkshake with her kid and you feel guilty you aren’t doing that with yours. You read your sister’s poetic post about the sunset and wonder why you can’t turn words into art that way. Your friends from high school share pictures of all the places they’ve traveled and you hate yourself for never leaving your hometown.

It’s said that comparison is the thief of joy. If that’s true, Facebook is it’s loyal accomplice.

2- Misrepresentation

This is partner in crime with number 1. You know that picture of your best friend and her kid drinking a milkshake? What you didn’t see was her son’s tantrum and her yelling in the car for 10 minutes straight before she took the photo. Social media has made exaggerating, even downright lying a perfectly acceptable way to gain attention from our peers.

And even when we don’t intend it to be, the way we represent ourselves to the world through social media is a falsehood, a filtered version of reality. What we see in a few lines generic fb picof a post, or what was captured in the split second a picture was taken could never illustrate all the light and dark points that make up a human being’s life.

3- Disregard

How many times have you messaged someone and found yourself thinking horrible thoughts about yourself and them because they didn’t message back? (Maybe he thinks I’m weird…then again maybe he just went for a sandwich.) Or, you post something straight from your heart, expecting a wealth of support from your friends, and you get zero comments. We’ve all been on the receiving end of this- and yet none of us can claim innocence to doing the same to our friends either.

Ironic, that the medium that has made us all so utterly connected has also given us the means to treat one another with such cold blasts of indifference.

4- Narcissism

Basically, what comes out of the code and onto your news feed as narcissism is actually people trying desperately to prove their worth.  Friends posting how many times and what kind of exercise they’ve done all day long. Dieters posting photos of everything they eat. Mothers relaying everything their toddler has said since he uttered his first words three years ago. Status updates from the same person three, five, ten, sixteen times a day. It’s not that people don’t care about this stuff…

girl with iphoneOkay, yeah, it is that people don’t care about this stuff!! But you know what? That doesn’t disprove a person’s worth. We’re just trying to find it in all the wrong places. It’s so very sad, that we are so blatantly crying out for each others approval in such a superficial realm.

5- Piggybacking

This one was the kiss of death for me, the one that sent me on Facebook sabbatical. A big political event is in process and suddenly everyone’s on the bandwagon, choosing sides. Starting ridiculous arguments with all who oppose. The sad and obvious fact is that most of the people who use Facebook to prop up their soapboxes have no freaking clue about what it means to be in the middle of any of those causes. They aren’t black. They’ve never fought in a war. They aren’t gay. They don’t have school-aged children. They have never so much as looked in the direction of a classic novel or pondered a work of art.facebook causes

This is not to say that there aren’t honest people out there trying to propel worthy causes on through social media. But what’s absolutely sickening is the way people jump behind big controversial causes in order to gain popularity, (and fake popularity at that.) The little profile pictures we see- they aren’t real people. Just representations.

We are REAL. Lets stop feigning persuasive power in tiny comment boxes and actually get out and support the things we believe in.

6- Unwanted Advice

We’ve all been here. Try to be honest, throw something real out into cyberspace and post that you couldn’t sleep or that you yelled at your kids. Suddenly everyone’s an expert how you should have handled it. Suddenly everyone knows better or has something to compare it to. Again, the thought you typed out is only a tiny sliver of the real situation, something no-one but you can possibly understand in whole. You might even think you want advice- but you can be sure as the sun if you ask for it on Facebook  you’re going to get some you didn’t.

This works in reverse too. Probably, our hearts are in the right place and we want to help. We offer our friends suggestions of what we’d have done. Post links of potential solutions. But this is a prime example of how our uber-connectedness has actually made us less in tune with one another.

What ever happened to the old-school picking up the phone for a one-on-one conversation? What about meeting for tea or coffee and a quiet chat? Those things seem to never occur to us anymore. We offer up all kinds of advice without actually needing to know how the person- the real one behind the profile picture- is actually feeling.

7- Substitution

Hands down, the biggest reason we need to start cutting out Facebook time. Like it or not, we are becoming some slightly-more-quirky version of The Matrix. Living counterfeit lives through a technological platforFacebook deserted by millions of users in biggest marketsm.

Social media is slowly becoming a substitute for real relationships. Of all kinds. Period.

So why do we do all these things to ourselves? Because we are human. We need to feel. Something, anything, even if its arguing with people we barely know over a cause we could never understand or incessantly posting what we think and what we’re doing every two minutes.

But what about eye contact? Hearing your best friend’s voice on the phone or watching your neighbor’s new baby smile? The power behind actually touching another human being? We need this stuff to exist, and we’re slowly abandoning it to live feigned lives inside a digital realm.

So, does this mean I think everyone should stop reading right now and delete their Facebook accounts? That social media is the root of all evil? No, not by any means. Like all technology, social has its place and obviously its benefits.

No, but what I am saying is that we need to look at how communicating through social media is shaping us, our thoughts, our choices, our everyday lives. Like anything else that humans encounter, it needs to taken be in moderation. It’s like a vice–we need to put its power into perspective, and the only way to get perspective is to step away from time to time.

And while stepping away…why not go outside, breathe in some fresh air and smile at people passing on the street? Sit on the grass with a neighbor and have a heartfelt chat. Look, listen, feel.

For a little while, be you instead of a feigned representation of you.