Friday, October 21, 2022

The Siren Song


Social media has made it possible for us to view carefully curated slices of other people’s lives and provides us with many opportunities to feel that our own lives are inadequate. I’m far from the first person to say this. It happens to be on my mind this morning because I found myself looking with longing at a photograph of someone enjoying their morning coffee at the beach. 

A little voice inside of me reminded me I’m never going to be that cool and well-to-do person that is having their morning coffee on the beach in the middle of October. It’s a belittling sort of voice. A long time ago a friend of mine quipped that people put mirrors on the ceiling over their beds “so they can see what they’re doing wrong.” Social media can be like that kind of mirror. We use it, whether we realize it or not, to see what we are doing wrong.

Or, more precisely, to be overwhelmed by a million tiny slices of how other people are doing it better.

Facebook and Instagram are full of career successes I will never achieve, parties I was not invited to, bodies more alluring, clothing that I cannot wear, and houses I cannot afford. For the most part, this does not bother me. Every once in awhile there is an event I wish I’d been invited to but then I remind myself I probably wouldn’t have gone. (It’s still nice to be invited, though.)

I think it is much harder on teens who are trying to figure out who they are and who accepts them. I can’t imagine being a teenager today under these conditions. I distinctly recall picking out different outfits as a teen as I played around with different images I was experimenting with. My sense of who I was and of who I wanted to be was still forming. Social media is a 24 hour a day feed of who is the coolest, the prettiest, the most popular, the envyingly affluent. I think if I were a teen today it would crush me. I would feel the call to compete on every stage. 

But, back to me. I’m as happy as might be expected with my particular life, blessings, limitations, etc. But - - oh my goodness - - I want to be that person enjoying their morning coffee at the beach. It doesn’t make me feel inadequate, though. Possibly wistful. Or maybe it’s a message that I should work on making that experience a goal to work towards. There are many things I see on social media that are far beyond my reach but this one is probably achievable.

And maybe focusing my longing into a concrete plan to make that happen would be a better use of my time than scrolling on social media outlets. It’s a thought.

Right next to the beach photograph on Instagram was the following image. 

The synchronicity was too much to ignore. That’s when I knew I had to write this post.

What about you? Does social media ever give you that uncomfortable FOMO twinge, or encourage self-critical thoughts? Or, have you ever been inspired by something on social media and then actually gone and done it?

I’m interested in your stories.

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