A few nights ago, my family and I were watching a music awards show on TV. We were busy goofing around and singing along, but everyone became a lot less excited once my mom pointed out the people in the TV audience. At least half of the spectators at the awards show were hiding their faces behind an iPhone. They were watching the concert through the phones, videoing and photographing the whole thing instead of being present and enjoying the concert they were lucky enough to attend.
The people on TV were more focused on all the ways they could later share what they saw than actually seeing it for themselves.
That's basically what, in my opinion, the huge problem with social media is. We're constantly attached to our phones while we craft clever Instagram captions, take pictures for Facebook, and Snapchat what we're doing instead of being actively involved with the group we're with. We're more focused on how what we're doing looks to our "friends" or followers than how enjoyable it actually is for us.
How many times have you been out to dinner with a group of friends and looked around only to see that your whole group is silently texting other people or scrolling through Instagram? Or been at a party where people spend what feels like ages editing pictures instead of having fun while they're there? It really sabotages the whole point of getting together with friends if everyone would rather virtually talk to other people, if you ask me.
Comparison to others is, indirectly, the basis of our social media profiles. Our generation is obsessed with what others think of us. Even those propagating an "I don't care" image work hard to make that clear on social media. Often times I feel like the version of ourselves we display online does not line up with our real life selves. We tend to share only the highs and to ignore the lows.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, we hand-select pictures and statuses to craft how we want others to interpret our lives. We edit pictures to hide flaws, filter images to make ourselves look better and write things on-line that we would never say in person (anyone remember Formspring?). The anonymity of the internet makes us feel dissociated from our online actions. We're "friends" with people we've met one time, we're wittier or more brazen than ever would be in person, and even somebody who has 5,000 followers may feel the loneliest.
I doubt social media is leaving anytime soon, and I don't think it should (I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of being an avid Snapchatter and Instagram addict). However, something needs to change. We need to be more honest with our posts. We need to acknowledge that life isn't always great for anyone— everybody has bad days, boring days and days when they don't feel like flashing a smile for the camera. We need to remember that our online presences are direct reflections of our real selves, not two separate entities. We need to be less focused on capturing moments on film and more focused on making memories to keep just for us.
We need to transform social media into its intended purpose: to unite and connect people (not to compare ourselves to others), to share our lives with friends who may not be there in the moment (not to over-edit or show off) and to be true expressions our ourselves (instead of idealized, filtered versions). Social media can be great if we don't dependent so heavily on it and we use it to display honest, important moments.