Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!
Last Sunday, I spent some me-time in the library and picked up a book called Way More Luck. It’s a tiny, brightly-illustrated compilation of commencement speeches on living with bravery, empathy, and other existential skills. Think of it as a handbook on how to cruise through life. The first speech was by design maven Debbie Millman, whose words made me feel hot in the face. Next thing I knew, huge blobs of tears were forming around the corners of my eyes and were trickling down my cheeks. I whipped out my phone, took a photo of her speech, encircled the relevant parts, typed “I’m Crying,” and then posted it on Instagram.
Do you know how you feel the whole hundred percent of a moment? Like, it goes full circle, and you are able to truly feel something down to your core? In hindsight, despite the tears, I realized I wasn’t able to feel as much as I wanted because I cut the flow abruptly when I took out my phone and started to peek every once in a while for comments and likes. I became aware of what I just did and snapped myself back into reality. Wow, what just happened there? And I know this is not an isolated case.
I had a conversation with a close friend recently about social media, and to even describe the magnanimous impact it’s causing to our daily lives is an understatement. We talked about how she was going to San Francisco, and I dared her not to post any photos; she just laughed, shook her head, and said, “I can’t!” So we dreamt about going to Sri Lanka, visiting safaris and beaches, without the presence of our phones. And to this, I said, “I can’t!” Our Instagram and Facebook feeds have become ingrained in our lives in such an integral manner that it’s difficult to imagine life without them.
I really admire those who can “detox” and turn off the switch. I am a ’90s kid, so I feel lucky to have experienced life in analog, where the qualities that made a mobile phone cool were a colored screen or being antenna-less. But why has it become so difficult to detach and revert to a life without social media?
There’s simply no turning back, but it would be fun to imagine us live life devoid of data plans.
Social media has indeed impacted our lives in a very positive way in terms of jobs, connectivity, and my favorite, inspiration. I am so thrilled to see my favorite chefs and authors give live, unedited narratives about their days. I also turn to Pinterest if I need ideas when putting an outfit together. Social media has also allowed me to make new friends around the world, and it helps me be more confident as it takes a lot for me to meet new people (I’m very introverted).
However, I think the danger lies in social media addiction. I’ve been listening to podcasts about why social media can get so addictive, and it’s interesting to know that the thrill we get upon receiving a notification about our posts is similar to the thrill of gambling—randomized incentives. But, unlike gambling, social media easily sucks us in because of the dopamine released to the brain when we get validation for our posts. It also creates a culture of “I wish I had this, too” when we see all these social media celebrities strut about with the latest skirt or don the newest lipstick shade, which I feel drives our spending up the roof. And all for what? Just to post on social media that we have it, and then, we move on to the next “best” thing.
I wouldn’t say social media is the number one culprit in making our world the way it is now. A lot of it has to do with self-discipline and self-control, but it has brought about a culture of dissatisfaction, greed, and insecurity. I think about that moment I had in the library, and I questioned myself, “Am I starting to unconsciously do all these things just so I could have some relevant content, or am I really here for some me-time?” I guess we could all use a bit of awareness every now and then. I miss those days when life was as simple as coming home from school, taking a nap, and reading a book. But times have changed. Social media has taken over the world, and it has rapidly changed the globe in so many equally fantastic and not-so-fantastic ways. It forces me to sit down and think about how I want to raise my future child in this social media driven world.
Just like money, social media can be empowering or destructing, depending on how you use it.
And, of course, let’s not forget our loved ones. In the same book about speeches, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s speech after that Instagram hoo-ha I had. It was a beautifully-phrased reminder about the dangers of letting technology and social media take over. “The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely we are able to care.” I couldn’t agree more. Social media celebrates connectedness, but also encourages retreat. Foer worries that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. So maybe, at the end of it all, it really is a question of balance.
“We all live in a world made up of more story than stuff. We are creators of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life.”
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. And God knows how much people truly need it. Maybe it’s time we’ve had more phone-free dinners, phone-free coffee dates, and maybe one day, even phone-free trips to Sri Lanka where we can enjoy safaris and beaches using our real eyes and not through the lenses of our devices. Let’s not allow social media satisfaction to come at the cost of what it means to truly live.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Yayie Motos
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