Living Vicariously Through Social Media…
In today’s social media driven world, I (Phil Svitek) wonder about the why of it all. Why are we so obsessed with social media? Why does it consume our time so frequently? Why does it cause us stress sometimes? One day I had an epiphany. Social media is a form of living vicariously. Many times we use social media as a means to judge and compare ourselves to whoever it is we’re looking at. But what we’re really saying is I want to be that person. I want to look like that person. I want to have the experiences that person gets to have. I want to have the money this person has. And so on and so forth. In this lesson, I offer an alternative to FOMO (fear of missing out). Check it out and let comment with your thoughts on the episode as well as how you use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Quit Social Media: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7hkPZ-HTk
Joy of Missing Out vs FOMO: https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/fomo-vs-jomo-how-to-embrace-the-joy-of-missing-out/
Positive Effects of Social Media: https://www.teenshield.com/blog/2016/06/28/positive-effects-of-social-media/
9 Positive Effects of Social Media on Society: https://www.vaptech.in/blogs/9-positive-effects-of-social-media-on-society/
Effects of Constantly Checking Your Phone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVjGQXq-fKE
6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Health: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#2c3fc2702e5a
Is Social Media Bad for You: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180104-is-social-media-bad-for-you-the-evidence-and-the-unknowns
Positive Effects of Social Networking Sites on Society: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/positive-impact-social-networking-sites-society-opinion/
AfterBuzz Contact Page: http://www.afterbuzztv.com/contact-faq/#toggle-id-18
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Today’s lesson isn’t exactly a lesson. It’s more of something I wonder about often – and that is the notion of living vicariously.
I bring it up because in today’s social media driven world, I wonder about the why of it all. Why are we so obsessed with social media? Why does it consume our time so frequently? Why does it cause us stress sometimes?
One day I had an epiphany. Social media is a form of living vicariously. Many times we use social media as a means to judge and compare ourselves to whoever it is we’re looking at. But what we’re really saying is I want to be that person. I want to look like that person. I want to have the experiences that person gets to have. I want to have the money this person has. And so on and so forth.
This frightens me.
But Phil… wait a minute, social media is just a form of entertainment. No different than books or movies or TV shows you profess to love and shove down our throats with your various recommendations. Furthermore, many people live vicariously through those forms of entertainment. After all, you yourself were so obsessed with the Matrix trilogy that you parodied the films twice in your own short films during high school.
Well, you’re not wrong about the second part. However, there is a fundamental difference between social media and books or movies or TV shows where the latter ones have been carefully crafted to convey a message. To relay a universal truth. Stories teach us something about the world, and more importantly, ourselves. Robert McKee, regarded as one of the world’s best teachers of writing, says this – “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
Stories in this way connect us and strengthen our bonds through empathy. For more on this idea, check out last week’s lesson entitled Why You Can’t Afford Not to Read. In this way though, stories serve a greater purpose. They teach us about the deeper human emotions and how to deal with circumstances in our own lives.
Social media connects us but it’s doing so on a very surface level. It has the potential to do it in a meaningful way, but it is us who are using the technology superficially.
Social media has no curator to filter out the good from the bad. It doesn’t have reviewers to make recommendations for us. And also consumers of social media are just as easily producers on social media. The barrier to entry, so-to-speak, is relatively non-existent. Anyone can post anything.
It’s similar to a debate not too long ago where if anything can be art, is art everything? The simple answer, in my mind, is no. Again, art, which books, movies and TV shows are, stem from a greater sense to speak to the world. Social media posts have the potential to be artistic, just look at National Geographic, but it’s not to say all of them are.
The crux of the scariness for me is that the things I see as popular aren’t really that in depth. It’s become an addition to some, or at least a time waster without the user’s knowledge. What people present on social media is a false or glorified version of who they are. And it’s hard for the consumer of these posts to recognize it as such. They believe what’s posted which in turn deflates them because it’s so different from their own lives. This then creates a vicious cycle, ergo the addition, where a person now checks social media constantly to see how a person is living out their life so they can somehow feel like they’re living the life they’re seeing on the social media post.
A secondary aspect that transpires is the consumer then begins posting falsified or glorified parts of their life to match what’s out there and distancing humanity more and more from the objective truth.
A byproduct of the second aspect is that we start to live life not for ourselves but for social media. How many times have you been to an event and seen everyone with their cellphones out rather than watching the event taking place? At home when we see people’s posts of this nature, we get jealous. While we’re there, we’re doing it so people can experience it for themselves thanks to us. This is all a form of living vicariously. No one is really living. No one is really in the present. And we all need to enjoy the present more, taking in what’s right in front of us, rather than what’s on the social media screen.
Social media can serve as a form of communication. And some people use it as such. I try to do that. Whether or not I’m succeeding is up for debate. Many times I feel like I’m not. There’s a quote from Henry David Thoreau that says, “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” I think about this in relation to social media and particularly me. Is what I have to say truly important to the world at large, or is it better served if I communicate it to the direct people in my life? What if I spent more time cultivating the relationships of people I’m in contact with daily instead of inflating my social media presence?
Most behaviourists state the human brain can keep track of 150 people at most and feel a sense of true and meaningful connection. If a person’s goal on social media is to have millions of followers, how true and meaningful can this connection be, especially, if as stated earlier, what they’re putting out is a false or glorified version of their life?
Look, the insidious thing about social media is not that it’s evil or sinful, it’s that most of what we’re doing with it is unconscious. We’re not aware we’re doing these things. That’s the scary part. We begin to hate our own lives and begin to believe that the grass is greener on the other side but that we can’t ever get to the other side. Living vicariously in this way creates unhealthy levels of FOMO, fear of missing out. FOMO is another way of saying stress. Jason Fried, co-founder and president of 37signals, has a phrase that I recently heard and I love. It’s the joy of missing out. I’ve learned to appreciate that phrase and try to apply it to my life.
JOMO is about embracing pleasures we want in a way that fulfills our souls. We choose what we want to do, rather than feeling pressured to do what society says we should do, or more so, social media dictates what we should be doing.
I encourage you to practice JOMO as well.
So where does this leave us? What’s the take-away this week? Truthfully, I’m still trying to figure that out for myself and therefore can’t concretely say. Therefore I’ll borrow from two great thinkers. Michael Crichton and Melvin Kranzberg. Crichton says, “My own feeling is that all views are right. The computer revolution is affecting every aspect of society and will produce a mixture of good and bad effects.” Kranzberg meanwhile says, “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”
You discern what you may from either. I’m certainly trying to.
Before you head off, here’s a few final things. We’ve included a few links to articles and videos on social media that dive deeper on the notions presented today. Because this was a bit of a different episode, we’d love to hear from you about your perspective on social media. How do you use it? When do you use it? How often do you use it? Why do you use it? All great questions we’d love to know from you. If you enjoyed today’s show, please be sure to hit that like button and let your friends and family know about it. If you’d like to be notified when future episodes release, be sure to subscribe on either Apple Podcast or YouTube. Lastly, if you’re a new host in the LA area and would like to join AfterBuzz, visit AfterBuzz TV’s contact page. A direct link is provided. Or, of course, you can Tweet @PhilSvitek or Instagram me @BonjourJuliet. Thanks for watching. I’m Juliet Vibert, a producer on the show and we’ll see you next time with another one of Phil’s lessons.