Social networking increases our ability to connect with friends and former acquaintances. It also gives us power. Power is a valuable tool, and can construct or destruct. If you are confused with how it gives us power, let me elaborate. It is our “platform” so to speak, our pedestal to prop ourselves up, in some cases above others. When we prop ourselves up, we can create a sense of security in our social standing and acceptance among those we covet. What we neglect to notice is how we can affect others in this process. While we are busy constructing our view of our life for others to peek into, we are destructing the confidence of others around us. The power we feel from putting our life on a pedestal, with all the perfect pictures, comments we add to our friends pictures, and carefully crafted image of our life; we fail to notice those around us who struggle with feeling adequate.
I read an article about the restructuring of the news source Indian Country Today, and it struck a nerve. The last question the interviewer asked was what is an important issue that needed attention. The response: “The teen suicide rate on Indian reservations is higher than anywhere else in the world.” Not the country, not a specific state, the entire world.
What does this have to do with social media? I can’t draw the lines exactly, I haven’t been on a reservation since 1999. Well before social media was even a thing, but it was on it’s way. What I can attest to is how the sense of feeling adequate in the face of the world is critical in constructing your life. On the flip side, when you feel inadequate, whether on your own or in comparison to others, destructing your life becomes a possibility.
We watch the girl we barely know go on vacation, from our cell phone on facebook while riding a bus to school, or from our couch with a box of tissues. We compare our life to hers, why we can’t go on vacation, or our vacation wasn’t as… epic. What we don’t see, and many others have written about this, is what her vacation was really like. All we see is what the person wants us to see. That is not the reality, it’s only a version, a constructed version.
I wish it was easier, sharing the beauty of our lives, our joys and happy times. Without hurting others in the process. It can be. What we really need is the actual human connection. I know that stepping out of the facebook realm I have missed a lot of what others I once knew share about their lives. I look at it as if they were going to share their vacation with me, I would know about it outside of the mass sharing index we use to catalog our life. I do know that when I look at my daughter’s and they are riding their bikes, or learning multiplication, or building forts… I see them. I don’t see a photo opportunity to show everyone else. I enjoy the moments, and savor the time we spend growing and learning together.
I have friends and family without kids. Some by choice, others by the waves of the universe. I know that their feelings of inadequacy may be hidden when they comment about how sweet, or when they scroll past and leave no comment because inside they are hurting. This is why I don’t do it. There are friends and acquaintances who will miss out on what I don’t share, and I love to see the honesty in what some people do share.