The end of the twentieth century has seen an incredible amount of change where technology is concerned. In just my own lifetime, computers have shrunk from being room sized monstrosities to pocket sized wonders. My current smartphone has 256,000 times more memory than my first computer. My car can connect with my phone and play one of hundreds of songs that I downloaded onto it while giving me directions to a restaurant fifty miles away and looking up the menu to that restaurant online.
The access to information that we have at our disposal is an amazing thing and yet it is the sort of thing that has disconnected us from the real world around us. People are increasingly tied to a version of themselves that they present through any number of social media platforms. There is a rise in people called influencers whose only real talent and ability is to present themselves as experts on popular culture. These experts are sponsored by corporations to offer opinions on ‘real life’ in exchange for advertising dollars. Don’t believe me? Look up information on the fiasco known as the Fyre Festival and how it was created almost exclusively on social media before proving to be a disaster and landing its founder in jail.
We are losing awareness of ourselves.
After ten years of being on various social media platforms, I have taken a break this Lent. So far, I have canceled Twitter and Instagram and will likely get rid of Facebook other than a means of sending messages to church members and honestly, I’d rather just send a regular text. And the sense of awareness of the world around me and the people around me has been wonderful, like waking up from a long, strange dream. I think that is the great irony of social media, that we want to be more aware the world and instead find ourselves aware of only an illusion or shade of it. And before you ask, no, I am not taking a Luddite, everyone needs to get rid of their social media stance on the issue. I am saying that we need to spend more time embracing the real thing: walking in nature instead of looking at a picture of it, talking to people instead of texting them, telling people about our vacation over a cup of coffee instead of posting the pictures online. At the very least, I think we need to find a better balance.