“What does it truly mean to be alive?”

I ask myself this question often, and always fail to receive a realistic answer. I’m blinded by what’s my true reality. I live in a generation where electronics have enhanced experiences like never before, but also limited them. Sure the quality of our camera’s photos are better, but does a snapshot make up for a full exposure with your own eyes? Am I really living in the now? Am I fully experiencing everything I was supposed to be, and taking advantage of every opportunity? Or was I using the opportunities to get my likes up on Instagram?

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

These were all valuable questions I wanted answers to, so I took a break. I strived to encounter face-to-face interactions, but face-to-face conversations are becoming more and more difficult to experience. Everyone was constantly either on their phones, or showing one another something on some type of technical device. Yet, this doesn’t exclude myself, because I do the same thing, I just tried to make an effort to enjoy the little things more. I felt as if they were being ignored while my face was invested in a screen.

I started this “break” my senior year of highschool, and because of it, have developed several qualities about myself I hadn’t realized before. My interests had changed, and I started to express the raw parts of my inner mind on my social media accounts rather than mimicking what I was viewing everyday on my newsfeeds. Stephanie Meyer once said, “Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain…” For me, the “glitch” was how real I saw the world once I pushed aside all of the distractions that were getting in the way of my own true happiness. Whether it was people, activities, or society's requirements, I learned what I could healthily balance, and what I couldn’t.

So what does it truly mean to be alive? Seriously.

Well, my senior year I wrote a poem, reflecting on how I viewed technology, and how it’s overtaking humans. The world is being absorbed into the wrath of technological advancements, and becoming who their social media sites tell them to be. Rather than expressing themselves wholly, they display themselves in ways they want others to see them, or how others expect them to be.

It reads:

BEEP! BEEP!

Starting with a subconscious reach of a hand,

The alarm is shut off,

And the day is started by the glow of a screen in a darkened room.

Before any conversation occurs face-to-face,

It takes place through a virtual message box.

Within minutes, notifications, alerts, badges, and texts become priority.

Obsesses, over used, and owned—

Even the latest model just doesn’t seem to meet the expectations.

So why is it that we allow tiny half-inch applications to escort us through life?

So why is it that we allow the amount of likes, followers, or friends to classify ourselves?

So why is it that we feel the need to document every single individual action we perform on apps like Snapchat and Instagram?

Since everyone else has these apps; it must be great,

We say.

Although some claim that technology is benefiting the future,

How it will strengthen the learning opportunities for students, and supply endless possibilities,

They are wrong.

They do not understand.

With all of the capabilities available now days,

Distractions and persuasions are likely.

These distractions lead to a newly sparked interest in a senseless speck of technology.

Before realization occurs, it has been hours.

Hours have been wasted on the fascinating transfixion on a screen full of LED lights.

With such a diverse device, we feel empowered.

We feel accomplished.

Yet we still base our worth on a number.

Like.

Follow.

Favorite.

Follow request.

Retweet.

Comment.

[Life is up here, but we comment below.

The comments below become our motivation (twenty one pilots)].

Is that what we want?

To be strangled by the electrical cord of advancing technology?

If that’s what we want:

That is where we’re headed.

“Sacrificing the Search Engine” Alexis Knight (2016)

To me, my poem enforced the capabilities of social media and how it affects people’s self-esteem and possibly their entire lives. The impact is unavoidable. Soon after new applications are developed, they become the basis of how humans interact and rank one another. These deadly databases consume their consumers and make them wish they were like their neighbor. Soon everyone aspires to be like someone else, and don’t embrace themselves as they are. The result: duplicates. Hundreds and thousands of duplicates rather than individuality. As a society, we get so absorbed in “the now” and change ourselves for the sake of a social image. Sometimes, the feedback to these images aren’t always encouraging, and are taken to heart. Cyber bullying. Occasionally, the feedback can be more influential than people realize, and you start to see news stories or trends on Twitter about young lives being taken too soon thanks to the harsh criticism on social media. I don’t think many people realize social media has the capability to take lives. However, we can use these advances in technology save them as well.

Problems like these occur more often than we think, and as members of today’s generation and society, I feel that we should wake up and realize the seriousness of these issues before it becomes too late. Take the time to physically spend time with people, take a breath of fresh air, quit worrying about how others view you—as obnoxiously unavoidable as it may seem—and do what makes you happy. Social media is tearing relationships, self-esteem, and people apart. Yet, just as easily as we can hit ‘send’ on a hateful message, we can also hit ‘send’ on an encouraging message.

So, what does it mean to be alive? I think it means to not let the critics or online trend-setters change you. Encourage one another the way that they are; be open-minded. Everyone has a different story to tell, so listen. The world is full of wonderful diversity we should embrace. Live your life to the greatest extent, surround yourself with positive, impactful people, and don’t be swayed by the wind of conformity.