“If it’s not on social media, it didn’t really happen.”
That’s the motto of today’s digital culture. Now more than ever, many of us social media our lives away one well-crafted post at a time.
I don’t have to tell you that a majority of millennials live to document their lives on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.
Their experiences are often based on their ‘like-worthy’ appeal on social media as opposed to what actually makes them happy. So we choose our meals taking into consideration what will look better in the photo (sometimes the food is already cold at first bite), opt for over-the-top activities for the perfect shot, and increasingly watch concerts through our screens instead of our eyes.
A recent(ish) survey revealed that over 75 per cent of people admit that their lives are more exciting on social media. Three quarters also admitted that they judge their friends based on their Facebook profile.
The sad reality is that it’s become about the photo op over the experience.
For example, there’s a huge lineup outside of Toronto’s Sweet Jesus. While it is undoubtedly delicious (and well worth the lineup even for those who “don’t do lines”), many brave it for the social media material alone. It’s pretty much mandatory to photograph your work-of-art ice cream cone as soon as it hits your hand. On a hot day, you better have your photo skills on check before the whole thing melts all over you and loses its Instagram appeal.
“Can I hold yours and take a picture with it so it looks like I got one too?” asked one young girl to another the other day outside the downtown ice cream spot. I kid you not.
But it’s not that rare. The same social media survey revealed that six per cent of people admitted that they borrow objects to appear in images to pass off as their own.
It’s why Instagram accounts like ‘You Did Not Eat That‘ exist.
Clearly, our social media obsession and the resulting pressure to perfectly curate an idealized version of ourselves can have serious ramifications when it comes to overall health and wellbeing. But living and breathing in the name of social media can have some positive impacts as well.
“If I voted but didn’t take a photo of the yellow ‘vote here sign’ and post it on social media, did I really vote?” wrote one social media friend of mine back during the federal election. She had a funny point. In the case of the election, people posting about voting was a good thing when it comes to reminding and mobilizing others to vote. Even if young people were voting simply for the photo op, at least they were voting.
Also on the plus side, making decisions with your social media accounts in mind may actually inspire you to have more fun and take more risks. Why did I do a (very rusty) front walkover into a cold lake a few weeks back? For the social media material, naturally. It’s the same reason why a fellow cottage-goer decided to cannonball off the boathouse.
We live in an age when everyone is a photographer and everyone is essentially their own brand (whether your profile is public or private). Especially as we get older, our friends often know us better through social media than they do in real life. But those of us who spent our childhoods without smartphones and laptops know that experiencing your life from behind a screen prevents you from actually, you know, living it.
I’m totally guilty of it.
In attempt to capture that perfect shot, I’m pretty sure I spent the majority of every recent concert behind my phone. But I was far from the only one.
Remember when we relied on memories and experienced things how we saw them from our own eyes? I get that times have changed, but I’m going to make a point: to not base what I do on the potential photo op and replace mealtime scrolling with real-time conversation.