Now that I’m an author, I’ve had to delve deep into the World of Social Media. Despite my reservations that a confirmed introvert like myself can successfully market in such an environment, I’m giving it the old college try. In the last year or so of using the various platforms, what’s struck me is just how unreal the social media world is. And by unreal I don’t mean, “Wow.” I mean unreal as in fake. Passive. Not life.
Now before you go off and crucify me for daring to insult the holy grail of social media, let me unpack this thought just a little bit. Social media does have some good points. It gives you a chance to connect with people from all over the world. People who are doing wonderful, useful, and amazing things. Any question you need answered or resource you want is just a few posts away. In that sense, it’s fabulous. If you have some obscure interest, it’s possible to find a tribe of like-minded people who might not be available to you in your hometown. Again, fabulous.
What’s not so fabulous is that it takes you away from your real life and pushes you into this passive place where you “think” you’re accomplishing something or experiencing real life, but you’re really not. It’s like slipping into some bizzaro world out of a sci-fi novel where everything looks really cool and awesome, but it doesn’t even exist and when you try to touch it, it fades away.
Social media is like slipping into some bizzaro world out of a sci-fi novel where everything looks really cool and awesome, but it doesn’t even exist and when you try to touch it, it fades away.
Nowhere is this more obvious than Pinterest. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy Pinterest more than any other platform I’ve tried. To me, it has the most room for creativity, humor, and storytelling. But I’ve noticed that when I talk to others about what they’re doing on Pinterest, all too often I get some version of, “Oh, you know, just pinning stuff when I’m bored. I’ll never get to do any of it, but it keeps me occupied.”
You’re wasting time pinning stuff that you’ll never get to do? Um. What if instead of pinning you got out and did the cool stuff, instead? What if instead of pinning recipes you went to the library, checked out a good cookbook and learned to make some of this stuff? What if instead of pinning beautiful vacation shots, you took your own trip. (Okay, so maybe you can’t afford that amazing around the world cruise, but you could probably afford a trip to somewhere nice within your local area.) What if instead of pinning all those crafts, you went to the craft store, bought some supplies or enrolled in a class, and learned to make your own? In other words, instead of sitting around bored in front of a screen, get out and live your life.
I see this with Facebook and Instagram, too, but in a different way. On Facebook and Instagram, everyone posts their ideal version of their life. They only post the good parts, not the pics of the kid up at 3AM puking, the house in total disarray, the annoying in-laws, or any of the other crappy stuff that makes up daily life. What you see instead are the vacations, concerts, perfectly posed pictures, and happy celebrations. I imagine that an alien coming to Earth and looking at nothing but Facebook or Instagram would think that we’re all having a marvelous time whooping it up and that nothing bad ever happens here. Oh, and we’re all gorgeous and no one ever has bed hair or wears sweatpants.
If you allow yourself to get sucked into social media too deeply, you might start getting depressed about the state of your own life. You’re not taking fabulous trips or having over-the-top birthday parties. You didn’t get to go to a concert or that party where a celebrity showed up. But while your life may not be “Facebook Fabulous,” I’ll bet it’s pretty good. You probably get to do some pretty fun stuff, too, even if it’s not huge. Some people have said to me, “I just sit around and look at Facebook and feel bad about the stuff I don’t get to do.”
Again: Wait, what?
You’d rather sit in front of the computer screen feeling bad because you aren’t doing the same things as these other people instead of going out and doing whatever you would find awesome? (Never mind that what you’re seeing is only the tiniest snippet of their life and that the rest is likely as crappy and mundane as yours.) Put down the mouse and walk away. Go out and do something, anything, to get you back into real life.
Nowhere is this substitution of passive media for real life more apparent than when you get into the entrepreneurial sphere. Yes, there are plenty of people making amazing things happen on social media. There are tons of writers, filmmakers, business owners, and artists using social media to do awesome promotion and networking. They are making their lives happen. And then there are those who sit in front of the screen and watch others do these amazing things. And complain bitterly about how nothing ever happens for them, or how they could never do that.
Here’s the thing, though: If you want things to happen, you have to set things in motion by, you know, actually doing something. You have to paint those paintings, start that business, write that book, or produce that film. In other words, you have to live your life. Social media can augment your life, but it can’t create it for you.
Say that again: Social media can augment your life, but it can’t create it for you.
You can use social media to promote the things you’ve done. You can use it to connect with people who do amazing things but whom you cannot reach on your own. You can use it to help plan trips that you’ll actually take. You can use it to look for recipes you will actually cook. You can use it to look for crafts or decorating ideas that you will actually use. What you cannot make it do is do those things for you.
If all you ever do is look and daydream, you’re missing out on life. There is a huge difference between wanting to “have done” and “doing.” Which side you choose will make a huge difference in your quality of life. All that time spent staring at the screen would be better spent getting out and doing the things you dream of, not wishing that you could do them.
There is a huge difference between wanting to “have done” and “doing.” Which side you choose will make a huge difference in your quality of life.
The funny thing is, the more things you get out and do, the more you’ll want to do, and the less time you’ll want to spend daydreaming. You’ll probably only find yourself gravitating to social media when you have a specific need, i.e. to look for that next fabulous thing that you will do in real life or promote that awesome thing you’ve done. You won’t be sitting around watching other people’s lives go by in a digital feed.
Social media has its place and it can be a useful tool if you’re disciplined enough to resist the urge to let it take over your life. It becomes a problem, though, when the time you’re spending on social media is time away from the fun of living and when you’re just dreaming and wishing instead of doing. I doubt too many people on their death beds regret that they didn’t update their Facebook status one last time. Instead, I bet they regret Instagramming that last sunset rather than enjoying it fully and in the moment.