Hello, and welcome to Wednesday! Are you having a nice week so far?
In theory, social media is a wonderful thing. Facebook, Twitter and more allow us to stay in touch with people all over the planet, and to record the highlights of our lives through photographs and videos. We can share our favourite music with our friends, read up about current affairs and amuse ourselves with any number of personality quizzes.
The bizarre thing about social media is that it has sort of overtaken our real lives. If we post a great photo we are offended when people don’t “like” it, and when we get a response from a celebrity on Twitter it makes our day. This is true to lesser or greater extents for each of us, but there is no denying that writing a funny status has become a kind of status symbol.
Why do we feel so validated by computer clicks? What is it about our virtual presence that we prize as much as (or in some cases, more than) our physical presence? I think that there are a couple of potential reasons: firstly, social media is quantifiable. I check the statistics of how many people read my blog each day – thank you for reading this by the way, you lovely thing – and it literally measures how many people choose to read my ridiculous words. When it comes to our online effectiveness, there are always facts and figures to tell us where we stand.
Secondly, having a Facebook page or an Instagram account is like having an encyclopaedia of yourself. Over the months and years we build up a lot of information about our lives and our friendships, including our moments of triumphs and the photos we actually like of ourselves. The information is complete and adjustable. If I want to know the name of that comedian my brother and I discovered in 2008, all I have to do is look back through our friendship. If we want to sound as sophisticated and intelligent as possible, we can edit our posts. If we are up for an important job we can get rid of the digital evidence of our unemployable silliness.
We’ve all heard (and probably made) arguments for real human contact over use of social media, and in general I tend to agree with them. It is better to see someone you love in real life, and no amount of filtering can make a beautiful image more moving. I do believe that social media is useful and a miracle of the technological age we live in, but I think that it’s a mistake to assume that what we say and do online is as important as who we are in reality.
Put very simply, a nice picture of you on Facebook is a marvellous thing, but it will never be as good as seeing your actual face. Have a glorious day. Remember to use plenty of sun cream.