Today I decided I needed a break from Social media. We all see these announcement pop up on our screen every once in a while and we can recognize the traditional format: ” Bye, guys, getting in touch with my inner peace and going to fist bump some Tibetan monks.” More or less. I began to wonder why exactly it is that we see these? Why do we associate ‘getting away from media’ with peace. Why do I associate ‘getting away from media’ with peace? There seems to be an important, revealing, unspoken fact in this. I Dora-the-explorer-ed my mind, and I arrived at a conclusion. Social media has the ability to inject our life with passivity and a discontent.
I can’t help but wonder what Peter the Great wouldn’t have accomplished had he had a Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter account. Perhaps he still would have somehow managed to make it into our history books for a series of clever, political, humorous memes that he created. I somehow doubt it.
What if Mary had a twitter ? I somehow question whether she would have “treasured up all these things and pondered them.” Perhaps the traditional Christmas story would contain excerpts of angry tweets such as ‘ I’M PREGNANT, I’M HUNGRY, AND THE INN HAS NO ROOMS.’ or ‘GOT PLACED IN A STABLE THAT NO WIFI. SMH.’
You may be familiar with the term ‘fillers’. You’ve likely heard them mentioned in an English course lecture or a Speech class. They’re verbal words used to fill in a moment of silence:’Uhm’, ‘Well’, ‘errr’. In manufactured food items, fillers can be used as ingredients: corn syrup, soy, potassium bromate.They don’t add much quality to our food just like verbal fillers fail to prove quality to our conversation. They exist to take up space. They exist to substitute more valuable nutrients, or more impactful words with cheaper, less thought provoking substitutes. Uhm, I mean, I guess we can see this in our every day lives.
Please allow me introduce you to our social media ‘fillers’: Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest. Like verbal fillers, or the fillers listed on our snack foods, they exist primarily to take up space. If the ways we spent our time were displayed like the ingredients on a snack package, they’d be the first ones listed. They provide us an easy alternative to more thought provoking life ingredients that are a bit harder to chew.
Now, I’m not denying that these websites have intention. I enjoy laughing at relatable college memes just as much as the other procrastinating student, and I’ve often used these sites to keep in touch with friends or even to share important news. They exist as a valuable means of self expression, and communication. They become a source of danger when they act as fillers, cultivating a culture of passivity and moment-by-moment-existence.
Who else has spent hours of free time on Pinterest collecting creative craft ideas for their weekends? You organize them under categories like ‘Fun Weekend Brunch Ideas’ or ‘Crafts For Christmas!” Then the weekend yawns sleepily on a Saturday morning, we brew ourselves a nice mug of coffee, maybe pour the kids some cereal and switch on the cartoons, settle down on the couch with a blanket, and we go up on Pinterest to collect yet more creative craft ideas for next weekend. I, personally, may play social media Duck Duck Lurk. I’ll pop around a bit to Facebook and Twitter. I’ll ‘like’ an event that I’ll likely skip out on for an evening in, catching up on my social media. We may see a shocking news clip, but before we have time to cultivate a response of activism, we’re consoled by an adorable corgi clip. We laugh and we forget.
These website have the potential to create a circle of passivity. A ‘filler’ for our free time. We begin to exist in this realm of collective minds, this new dimension, that somehow avoids doing much of anything. We go there when we’re waiting in lines, in doctors office, in restaurants, in dressing rooms, in traffic, in consciousness. We’re inactive, we’re passive, and we have no time to reflect on these traits before we click on the next vine video. Our thumbs are becoming more agile while our minds may face the threat of devolution.
Inactivity and passiveness are not the only threat that these website present us with. There is a looming, dark villain sitting behind a monitor somewhere cackling in true villain style. It isn’t the sex predator we were all warned about before getting our first email accounts. It isn’t the Cruel Consumer Cracken ( though he exists too). This villain is Discontent, and he sits behind all of our monitors. Have you ever woken up, happy, content, peaceful and then popped onto Facebook to skim your homepage for a quick two hours before work? Suddenly, your bones feel heavy, your heart’s little chin starts to quiver and drop. You’re immersed in a cloak of discontent. Their boyfriend bought them flowers. My boyfriend can’t spell flowers. Their puppy is potty trained. I don’t even have a fish. They have kids. They have a better job. Wow, look at that cruise. Gosh, I wish I could cook like that. That house is beautiful. It’s the unanimous filter of discontent that we don’t even need to open snap chat to apply.
We become so occupied looking at the lives of others through any filter they select to portray it through. We see our own life, unfiltered, raw, and soon, increasingly empty.
Once again, I would not be so ambiguous as to insinuate that these websites don’t have their incredibly functional uses. I have had many satisfying, self-fulfilling moments in front of a glowing screen, peering into another dimension through a wormhole monitor. I’ve connected, had important conversations, made plans I’ve followed through with, shared art, seen art, experienced community. But, more often than any of these positive attributes, I’ve experienced discontent and passivity.
This December I want to be active. I want to remove the ‘fillers’ from my life. I want to be content. I’ll admit I’m a bit scared. I ask myself the philosophical question, if my thoughts are not tweeted or announced on Facebook, do they cease to exist? If my selfie isn’t liked, will my perfect eyeliner wing droop? What does a waiting room actually look like? Wow, tabloids still exist in check out lines?
This December I’d like to crochet the tea cozies, go visit the wine and cheese sampling, and appreciate the beauty of my life.
I’m not sure I’m completely up for this challenge, but I think it’s important to try. I hope to find more meaning in life than memeing.
Amanda Axelrod is an English/creative writing major who currently attends MCCKC Longview. When she isn’t filling in scantrons, she is a barista in a small coffee shop in Independence, MO, leaving clouds of foam in lattes. She fully believes in the corruption of a capitalistic/consumer nation, and is daily trying to combat that by combing out capitalistic tangles from her way of thinking. Whether combatting capitalism and consumerism, steaming milk, or attending college courses, she is always writing.