Wednesday 11th May 2016

By mira

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“There was this incredible music show going on and all these girls were worried about was taking clip after clip for this thing called snapchat!” said my friend who has only recently learnt about the power of instagram. Well I haven’t joined snapchat just yet though probably will have to join soon – for me, I tell myself, it is work related. But, work or not, social media can become an addiction. Everything has to be picture worthy, everything must be shared, everyone has to be able to see what you’re doing, right now, how cool your life is, how good you look. But that incessant need to post something and get likes and be obsessed with the number of likes and comments, isn’t that missing the point of being in the ‘now’, of living in the moment?

When I was away in India recently, I sat by the beach, I swam in the ocean, I read (only a little), but I spent a rather annoying portion of my time thinking about and taking pictures, posting on instagram (work, of course!) Some of those might be food images and others family pictures since it was a family holiday, but I spent too much time obsessing over this. It’s not always as simple as – this looks cool and the first picture you take is fine. So yes, I think there were many hours I could have read more, sat in solitude, meditated, and really just been in the ‘now’. Rather than just being, I was spending time trying to show the world I was ‘just being’ (though I do have some pretty awesome shots!) ‘Without external interruption, we are more likely to get lost in our daydreams, free ourselves from excessive self-consciousness, and experience a greater sense of relaxation and hope,’ writes Leah Palmer from the Vinaya Lab in Why we should unplug to find solitude. ‘When we have an important decision looming, or are experiencing a persistent sense of unfulfillment, seeking solitude can help us consider our long-term goals and gain fresh perspective.’

And then there’s the receiving end. Looking through your friends posts and seeing where they are, what they’re doing, how amazing their day looks, how gorgeous they look and suddenly your ‘normal’ day looks much more gloomy and dull. This is the point at which social media and stalking becomes detrimental to your wellbeing and life. Someone I know is always posting gorgeous happy facebook posts about her family and husband, posts that would make anyone going through a period of loneliness feel at best happy for her and at worst green with envy. However, to then find out that she herself is debating whether or not to end her marriage makes me really wonder and question and be in awe of the power of social media, the power of images and posts. My perceived happiness can really just be a lie (though in turn, that pretence could also feed reality).

Your holiday on the beach might be just okay and not as fun as you might have wanted it to be, but post a photo with friends or an image of your sunglasses and bag on the sand with a cool caption and the number of likes and comments might elevate your mood. The same goes for life and marriage. Putting it that bluntly, it seems sad, but sadly, it’s true.

You might be hoping for some man to get in touch with you because of your post, you might want your friends to realise how cool your life is, you might be keen to show your ex you’ve moved on, or you might just want to share a pic from your life for no reason – just because you’ve taken a lovely pic and are happy about being where you are, about seeing the sun, or about eating a pizza. And all these reasons are reasons enough. There’s a lot of good that can come out of it and ways that it can promote brands, places or even awareness of issues. But obsession with taking images and videos and sharing and watching other people’s clips takes us away from the now, from really enjoying where we are and being present, from letting our minds drift away and allowing for new ideas to form, from truly ‘feeling’ this, here, right now.

There is no solution or conclusion, because there really is so much that is good about it, but there is equally so much that is wrong about it. What we can do is consciously create our own time without digital distractions, even if it is just an hour of thinking time or sitting with a friend and putting the phone away.

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