Yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline, nothing out of the ordinary.
And I came across a link that a friend had shared, accompanied by their caption declaring that the attached video was scarily accurate in how it depicted “everything that is wrong with our generation”… which, again, is really nothing out of the ordinary.
I see these posts all. the. time.
Honestly, I don’t think I can go a week without seeing some new, over-exaggerated and overdramatic video that is supposed to convince me that the technology I use everyday is nothing but detrimental to my life.
People have tried to claim so many things about my generation and the things we do that are supposedly destroying our lives.
We are “addicted to social media”, “isolated”, “self-absorbed”, “unable to communicate in person”, “living all of our lives online,” etc.
It really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I disagree with the above statements (in most cases.)
Social media and the Internet and advanced technology, like most things, cannot be shoved into one box and labeled as “BAD.”
And I say this as someone who is fully aware of and not afraid to admit her heavy online/social media use and presence. I mean, come on, it was #1 on my list of “11 Things I Will Not Apologize For.”
You see, I refuse to listen to these people/videos/articles saying things like “Snapchat is just for teens to send nude pictures to each other,” when in reality it’s literally 96% ugly selfies (a statistic I have just made up right now.)
I refuse to believe that texting has turned me into some sort of humanoid that is unable to have a face-to-face conversation.
I refuse to believe that posting selfies automatically means that you’re insecure. If you really think selfies are always cries for help, then I worry for you. Actually, I think a good rule of thumb is to simply not trust anyone who has anything negative to say about selfies, ever.
Now, before I continue, allow me to clarify a couple things:
1) I do believe that some issues exist within the ways we consistently rely on technology and how we present ourselves to the Internet, AKA: the world
2) But I define “we” as everyone who regularly engages in social media, not just people in my generation (here’s lookin’ at you too, digital immigrants!)
I am a digital native, more popularly known as a “millennial.”
This means that I grew up in a time where technology was rapidly advancing and thus, I have been able to understand it naturally, adapt to it more quickly, and I am more likely to engage in social media or buy an iPad or whatever.
For comparison, digital immigrants are those people out there who are more likely to print out their emails, say things like “Are you on The Twitter?” and sign their name at the bottom of a Facebook comment (we KNOW you posted it, it says your name RIGHT. THERE.)
Us millennials are known as the generation of instagrammers, snapchatters, tweeters, tinderers (is that even a thing? well it is now) and, of course, hashtaggers. According to The Society Pages, a millennial is defined as anyone born after 1980.
Personally, I believe that growing up right in the heart of Silicon Valley, a couple streets down from Apple Headquarters, has made me what I like to call a “super millennial.”
I have been strongly influenced by the community I grew up in. One that was and still is thriving in a world of modern technology and innovation.
As a result, I love social media. I loved it from the second I had access to it.
Unfortunately, that access was delayed because in 6th grade I was not allowed to have a MySpace account, which made middle school even more of a hell than it already was.
But at my 8th Grade Graduation dinner at TGI Fridays, my parents taped a picture of my face to the top of a book… their special (and weird) way of telling me that I was now allowed to create a Facebook and connect with my friends in a medium other than AOL Instant Messenger! There was a God.
I’m honestly thankful they restricted me from it until then because I never had to deal with “Top 8” drama and there are less pictures of me in my awkward years on the Internet (but some are too good to resist sharing.)
Since that fateful day I have made an Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, two Twitters, and I have started this blog.
I have posted statuses about making my high school dance team and getting into various colleges, uploaded pictures from birthday parties, tweeted about my family vacations, instagrammed my favorite outfits, and shared a lot of my best moments with family, friends, and even strangers (my Instagram is public.)
This is where we get to the idea that I’ve been leading up to. It’s what sparked something in me after watching the video that I mentioned at the very beginning of this blog post.
We tend to share those all these happy moments, but what’s so wrong with that?
Before watching the video that my friend shared, my answer was “nothing”… and after watching it my answer is still “nothing.”
The video below has a point that it’s trying to make. I get why they wanted to share this message and where there is validity in it, but instead of leaving me feeling educated with a nugget of shocking, insightful wisdom, I was frustrated by its exaggerated, unnecessary pessimism.
Please, feel free to watch:
Whether you agree with what I’ve previously said or not, it’s easy to see where I am coming from.
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve seen a video like this, either.
If you remember the “Look Up” video that was widely shared a few months back, that’s another example of a video that subtly demonizes my beloved iPhone.
However, that video was really well done, I must admit. The storyline, videography, and editing, I liked it a lot. Especially when he says that we “share our best bits, but leave out the emotion.”
I appreciated the overall message they tried to convey, but a lot of the spoken word piece was melodramatic and made too broad of claims.
Ex: “We’re a generation of idiots. Smart phones and dumb people.”
Really? Smartphone users are dumb? Clever line, man. But…. really?
Still, it was better than the first one because at least it knew how to make its point in a believable way. “Look Up” never got to a point where I rolled my eyes at the excessive negativity and vast assumptions in relation to human nature.
And yes, I know, I know. They exaggerate in order to make their points. But if these points are supposedly that prevalent and clear, why do it to that (annoying) extent?
I think what it comes down to is that I have a really big issue with the idea that social media is completely evil and falsely portrays our lives.
As if the world was this endless pit of lies and depression and poorly filtered photos of our feet in a bathtub with #ilovemylife as the caption, even though our dog died and we’re eating our fifth bowl of Top Ramen in two days.
Believe it or not, sometimes people are honest on the Internet (sorry, Dateline and Catfish, but it’s true.)
Newsflash to anyone who thinks the “What’s On Your Mind” video is our reality!
Sometimes if someone had a shitty week or month or couple of months or year, they choose not to cover it up and are open about it online and they DON’T lose all of their Facebook friends!
Shocking, I know.
Bad days (or years) happen and that’s totally okay. It’s also okay for the individual to choose whether or not they want to share that via social media.
If something not-so-awesome happens in your life and you wish to talk about it online, you literally have a right to do so and, I think, shouldn’t have to feel nervous or judged when doing so.
Online social norms aren’t always there because they are for the best, sometimes they’re kind of f****d up.
If you’re experiencing pain and you cope with that best by not sharing it, by all means do not feel pressure to post about it.
If you’re like the guy in the video and try make the problems in your life better by posting skewed and overly excited statuses, you can do that. I do not recommend it, but it’s your life, not mine.
I would encourage you to share because, in my personal opinion, it’s healthier, but it’s not my job to tell you when and how to share your feelings.
It can be scary.
I get scared every time I share my latest blog post on Facebook. Because sometimes I say controversial things or I share something more vulnerable and I make myself an easy target.
But I truly believe that people ARE capable of being honest about pain online, they do it everyday, and when they do their peers don’t shun them.
In the video we see the guy’s life get worse and worse as he goes through a breakup and loses his job, but continues to make it all sound great online. In the final bit he posts an honest complaint that his life sucks and it shows his Facebook friend clicking the “Hide All Posts From Timeline” button.
Here is my response to anyone who genuinely thinks this is an accurate portrayal of our generation: Are. You. Serious?
So, now I’m lying every single time I post a status saying I had a great day at work or enjoying some time at the beach? Oh, and we all try to block out posts from anybody who dares to show a shred of realness?
Let me be happy and post about it and not have to feel paranoid that people will think I’m lying.
And if I’m upset about a class I’m taking or had a rough day or lost a loved one, let me be sad and post about it.
And finally, if I don’t want to post anything, I won’t.
Freedom of speech, y’all. First amendment, come on. We know this.
*there are exceptions to the first amendment, but I’m not getting into all that here because what matters is that you understand the basic point I’m making
At the end of the day, the choice is ours and no matter who tries to convince you of correlations between social media and being selfish/isolating yourself from your peers/needing social affirmation for confidence/etc., you still get to make that decision.
Again, the reality is, some of these studies and articles have truth to them. I’m really not one to completely deny well-done research and science, but I still question things.
I don’t doubt that how we present ourselves online is influenced by how we want others to view us. Vulnerability is scary. But I cannot blindly agree with every study I hear about and every video I watch and accept it as truth.
Because I’m not that naive bunny character from “Arthur.”
So, if you don’t want to be like the guy in the “What’s On Your Mind?” video, then don’t be. If you want to “look up” more, then do it. I encourage that.
But don’t tell me that our generation is “always this” or “always that” and expect me to agree with you. Because I will not be put in a box.
I go on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter daily, but I also have a life.
I have great relationships with my mom, dad, brother, boyfriend, sorority sisters, high school friends, college friends, classmates, co-workers, etc. I talk on the phone, I talk in person, I maintain eye contact and conversations, I have two jobs and work hard, I can focus and do well in school, I go out with friends, I go outdoors and adventure and explore. I can live without my phone. We all can.
Being active online and engaging in social media does not make me or anyone else a robot.
And I am actively pushing myself to not be afraid of being open about those feelings online. People will disagree with what I have to say sometimes and that’s perfectly fine. I appreciate and pursue discussions where all sides have a chance to share, where respect is maintained, and where everyone truly tries to understand the different opinions.
These discussions are so important for growth and, for lack of a better phrase, keeping it real.
Real people experience a wide and wavering spectrum of emotions that are subject to change at any moment. We all feel happy, sad, angry, sensitive, loved, jealous, excited, confused, curious, and inspired and thousands of other ways.
And nobody can tell me that I’m not allowed to share these feelings.
Sometimes I’m feeling lost and questioning who I am and I express that on Facebook—maybe because it’s how I’m choosing to vent/cope or maybe it’s because I want to spark a conversation and exchange ideas.
Sometimes I want to Instagram a selfie, not because I’m searching for validation of my appearance, but because I feel like I look good that day and want to take a damn picture.
Real people feel.
And we have the power to disregard anything that shames us or guilts us into believing that there is something wrong with being open about our feelings or our insecurities or our confidence.
So, here’s to trying to keep it real.
And not being afraid of giving it a shot.