It seems that we do more living online than off. Every moment is documented, cropped and edited, and then posted for others to validate. In a culture where double-taps and swipe-rights are currency, we are getting rich off of self-exposure.
I find myself periodically opening my phone to check social media accounts. Upon quitting them once I feel content that I'm caught up, I re-open them just moments later—purely out of habit—finding nothing new, but fulfilling my own desire to make sure I don't missing anything.
Although social media allows us to connect with one another, it is hard to strike a balance and find moderation with something so readily available. Our various usernames and methods of sharing and interacting help create the illusion of a full self-representation online, but this could not be farther from the truth. The online community has developed into a rather egotistical mean of self-validation. We share ourselves with the world in exactly the manner we see fit and then sit back and enjoy the positive comments our friends leave on our posts.
All of this sharing begs the question: how much is too much? There is power in privacy. It is not necessary for everyone to know every moment of your life. Although it can initially feel good to share your activities, it can make others feel bad when they compare their mundane, but real, lives with your carefully cultivated, “picture-perfect” one.
Additionally, exposing people (who you often do not know very well) to intimate details of your life can lead to dissatisfaction if you are not validated in the way you want to be. Confiding in someone who knows you, cares about you, and is somewhat familiar with your situation is ultimately more satisfying than a couple of well-intentioned comments, comments that are usually more meaningless than helpful.
Yes, we are told that our voices matter. While I agree with this, I think that we exist within a culture that promotes self-expression to a point where it is no longer self-expression; it is entertainment.
We are competing with each other for attention, for approval, and for popularity. We idolize celebrities, saying, “they’re just like us!” We marvel at photos of them while shopping in grocery stores and scouring the internet, both reveling in our similarities and envying the differences. If they’re just like us, how do they get millions of likes on their Instagram photos while most people get a few dozen?
Social media has become a performance. We are performing for each other, constantly documenting every exciting moment we live in an attempt to validate our experience. I appreciate the perfect Instagram or timely Snapchat as much as the next person; however, I recognize my own need for validation through social media. It is easy to pour oneself into a blog post that goes to strangers online, but it is harder to vocalize feelings to real people. I think we should all try to live without an audience. Our lives are not performances. Social media is a mask, a character we play, and one we play well. If we focus more on presenting our lives than on living them, then when the mask comes off, what will be left?