Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Social Media and Living in the Moment

"Better tweet about going to the pub and let people know I have  social life!"
"That wedding on Saturday will be a good place for some cute boyf/girlf photos!"
"We've arrived! Let's all check in on Facebook so everyone knows!"

Does this sound like you? Maybe these aren't conscious thoughts, but we live in a day and age where many of us plaster our social lives all over the internet. Occasionally, I'm guilty of this... as the majority of my generation are. And although my mom may laugh and scoff at our oversharing, it's become normal and expected for us. 

My boyfriend and I do not often inform social networks of our activities together, despite frequenting pubs and bars most weekends. We don't feel the need to tell our friends via the internet that we are spending time together- we don't have to validate our activities by putting them on Facebook. 

However, many people do seem to feel the need for this online, social validation. They believe that if they don't share a snap of their beautifully presented meal on Instagram, they didn't really eat it, or if they don't check into the place-to-be bar of the moment of Facebook, there isn't much point in going. Many people live and validate their lives on the internet instead of living in the moment and really experiencing real life. 

At a David Byrne concert I went to a couple of years ago, Byrne touched upon this subject. He encouraged his audience to take a few photographs or videos of the performance if they so wished, but reminded them not to watch the gig through the screen. Why watch the concert through the small screen of your phone when you could view it happening before your very eyes, in the same moment and place as you stand? My generation lives life "through the screen", often not fully engaging in what they are experiencing because they are too busy tweeting about it. 

I hope I don't sound harsh. I too have plenty of social networking accounts and play my part in the social media scene. Sharing your photos and activities is a quick way to keep up with your family and friends, but in some way, it does affect how we experience life. 

Mindfulness is about seriously taking in and living in the moment. An individual practicing mindfulness might, for example, choose not to listen to music whilst doing their makeup, because they're purely focusing on doing their makeup. In return, when listening to music, they would simple sit, listen and appreciate. Mindfulness is a kind of stress relieving therapy for many, helping to quieten constantly whirring brains. Although I've gone off on a bit of a tangent, I think the principles of mindfulness connect with my views of online sharing. Rewind to the David Byrne concert, a man to my left spent the entire evening recording the performance on his iPad. Rather than immersing himself in the music and experiencing the unique magic of a great gig, he was busy worrying about whether he was getting all of David's impressive white barnet in frame. 

My mom has just reminded me that this form of recording our lives is not exclusive to the era of social networking, telling me that when video cameras first came into popularity, holidaymakers spent their break behind the camera. They recorded the surroundings to impress their family on their return, rather than truly living and experiencing the holiday for themselves.

It's important to remember that people only share what they choose to online. It's easy to believe that your favourite vlogger lives a constantly fun, glamorous and friend-filled life, packed out with colourful events and endless meals in trendy bistros. But no doubt they have boring days in between where they do their washing, buy loo roll and spend too long in their pyjamas watching trashy TV. They just don't broadcast these normal activities quite so enthusiastically. Your online image can become a source of much stress. It's so easy to slip into the mistake of comparing yourself to those who seem to live the perfect (online) lives. Social media, a thing that isn't even tangible, shouldn't be something that causes more stress in already busy and fast-paced modern lives. 

Living in the moment is a highly attractive concept that many of us try and struggle to achieve. Perhaps if we took a step back from our beloved online accounts and took more care in engaging with and experiencing life, without our brains reminding us "you better tweet that", we would feel like we are getting closer to making the most out of our real lives. 


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