We live our lives in public. Gone are the days of the stiff upper lip, the closed door, and the private life that previous generations enjoyed. Now we’re Tweeting, sharing on Facebook, and broadcasting to the world our painful breakups, our idealised Instagram photos, and our fear of missing out.
We can’t help it because our Facebook feeds are full of other peoples’ lives, and there’s always the unpleasant feeling that their experiences are better than your own. It infects us, it makes us uncertain, and we don’t make good decisions, or act with immediacy. Instead we wait in case something better comes along.
A World of Echoes
I’ve written a lot about digital trends, and social media fads. Each one comes along, subversively at first, and then it explodes, before it fades into obscurity. Our digital lives most closely resemble dying stars, we live in a world of echoes, and we don’t realise the effect we have, or the experiences we’ve had, until we view things in retrospect.
But it’s hard to disconnect, or find any sort of distance, or space. Our hands are inextricably tied to smartphones, to laptop keyboards, and to a constant stream of (mostly) pointless information. We can tweak our social media feeds, we can delete ‘friends’ who disagree with us, and we can live a life that we censor ourselves, creating contexts that are disingenuous and free from discourse.
Analogue Experiences Shared Digitally
I think it’s a problem that will affect my generation as we grow up. People make mistakes, they make a mess, and unfortunately for millennials who have grown up connected to the internet, those mistakes are forever implanted in the digital world. Our analogue problems, fears, and fuck ups are indelible, they’ll be easily accessible by our kids, and their kids too.
Whatever happened to mystery? Why don’t we filter our thoughts? With digital expression there’s plenty of time to think things through, to edit, and tweak, before we hit enter. Once we do though, our words, our images, and videos, are gone, sucked up into the air, forever broadcast to an internet audience.
The Internet Killed the Present Moment
This lifestyle removes our ability to be mindful, to be in the moment, and it ensures that we’re always grasping at the past, or striving for the future. Perhaps TV killed the radio star, but the internet killed the present moment. We exist simply to consume, whether it’s information, fast food, or cigarettes and alcohol. We’re hardwired to endlessly toil, and not for much either – simply for more.
Digital marketing, sharing content, writing down words and thoughts for ‘likes’ is an endless and tiring pursuit. How many ‘likes’ are enough? At what point will our digital lives make us feel validated, happier, and more content with our analogue experiences? It seems that the answer lies in separating ourselves from the past, letting go of our nostalgia towards what we’ve already done, and deciding that the future will arrive with no help from us.
The reality that we perceive is an augmented one. It’s a photo booth, a stage for us to take selfies, and broadcast our thoughts and feelings to the world. There are millions of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every day, a similarly breathtaking amount of photos and content shared online, and in amongst all of that digital noise it’s hard to take a moment to think outside of our constructed reality. Perhaps it’s not quite as pressing to check up on your school mates, or your exes, and it might be better to enjoy what you’re up to now, in the moment, rather than seeking the next thing to fill your time, and your mind.
Social media, our constant connection to the internet, and our need to be congratulated for simply living our lives is giving us anxiety. Accept who you are, if you don’t like something about yourself, change it, and don’t compare and contrast your life with your friends’ experiences. It’s easier said than done, but the next time you head outside, leave your phone behind. Perhaps then you’ll find some peace, some respite from nostalgia, and a quieter mind too.