Tweet. Post. Comment. Like. This era has it’s own lingo; a jargon-addled psuedolanguage that sometimes barely resembles recognized speech or written words. Children, teenagers, and adults alike all speak it; as everyone desperately tries to capture fleeting memories with short blocks of text, a blurry photograph, or an unlistenable audio clip. Most attempts fail, falling short of the moment when they were written or snapped.
Whenever I board the train, I’m surrounded by passengers who crane their neck downward, and catch up on the latest news. As if made from stone, they sit still while the city whizzes past, only rising immediately before exiting. At concerts, when the focus should be on the performer, everyone raises their phone into the air — sometimes recording the entire performance, knowing full well the resulting video will be a pixelated mess.
This behavior is universally recognized, repeating itself daily without fail, and seemingly controlled by a greater mind. We behave as the program instructs: peering through dark portholes into the lives of our virtual friends; seeking approval in the form of likes, retweets, and droning commentary. It’s dangerous.
We complain that the world moves too quickly, and about our lack of creative fulfillment — but the problem is us, not the world. As a society, we lied to ourselves, inventing shiny new ways to document our life. In reality, they clutter our minds, and sometimes, prevent us from creating memories at all.
As your son throws his first ball, would you rather watch or fumble with your phone? When a performer walks on stage, is it better to bathe in the moment, or shoot overexposed images that you will soon trash? Is a train commute an opportunity to reset your mind, and focus on subconcious creative tasks, or thumb through and like content because you’re strangely compelled to?
Board the train, and stare out the window as the city rushes past. Breathe. Listen. Be alive. If, for every waking moment, I tap busily at my phone, I risk missing the magic of life itself.
A few of you will flag me as hypocritical, and continue. Your habits will remain the same, as you act on inexplicable compulsions; your daily experiences, which could bring you joy (but don’t), won’t improve either. Over the last few years, I’ve renovated my lifestyle, meticulously analyzing the impact of each change. Reviewing my relationship to content — both what I consume and produce — was one of the largest alterations yet, and yielded the greatest return. I write only with clear topics and a unique viewpoint, refusing to join the endless din of voices, proclaiming a quick path to social marketing perfection, and a rapid influx of customers or influence.
Are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter inherently bad for us? Of course not. I’ve explored them all, and use the latter two daily, but I’m always careful to close the laptop, or kill my phone when necessary. I’m alive for a fixed period of time: the magic of breathing, hearing, seeing, and feeling won’t last forever. The services, on their own, are beneficial to humankind at large. The problem is our addictive nature, and its effect on the subconscious mind. We need to feel plugged in, and that our voice matters. Ego is a strong motivator, of course, but what are the true consequences of unplugging? It doesn’t hurt us, nor those who follow, even momentarily.
It’s imperative, more now than ever, that we develop healthy digital habits. Otherwise, the next generation will simply adopt our bad practices, and advance their application, leading them to increasingly reclusive lives, though they’re constantly surrounded by friends.
This is a call to purpose. If you feel a moment deserves preservation, record it carefully. If you aren’t living, breathing, and documenting your life with purpose, part of you is already dead.