I know for a fact that the internet has changed the way that we communicate; all you have to do is look at everyone staring at their phones all the time, updating their statuses on Facebook, Twitter, etc.; pinning stuff on Pinterest, watching Grumpy Cat videos, and making their lives complete by finding out exactly what sort of stupidity people who are famous for no apparent reason are up to now. What I am interested in, though, is whether or not it's changed the way we think. Has the internet--and Facebook in particular--changed the way our brains function? I would argue that it has.
I've been trying to decide what my feelings are about social media, and I've decided that I have a very fundamental beef with with most of it. It's so exhibitionist! OK, I am a very lucky person. I am living in a beautiful place, my son is in the sort of school that I wish all children could attend, I don't have to work my butt off to survive, and I have the time and energy to do many things that I like to do, rather than only what I HAVE to do. And have I mentioned that (I believe) that my son is the most beautiful child in the world? He's also the funniest, the smartest, and I might be the best mom ever. OK, so that last bit about me is probably not true, but I do believe the rest of it. Now, does anyone who happens to see my Facebook page REALLY want to know all that? And do they want to know that in many different forms?
I guess what I am saying is that I question what we are doing when we post online. On the one hand, when I am traveling or doing something else that might be interesting to other people, then I think that social media is a great platform. There is the off chance that someone might want to see my pictures of places that everyone is not lucky enough to be able to get to, so maybe I am making someone happy in that way. Once in a while I'll see funny things and think that maybe other people might think they are funny too, so I'll share. But most of the time I wonder whether people really don't have something else they could be doing rather than reading my ruminations.
Remember when you were a stressed-out teenager and you were worrying about what you would say when you ran into the guy--or the girl--you liked in the hall? Do you remember trying out different comments in your head and imagining the reaction? I hope so, because I would hate to think that I am the only one who did that. I think that most people tend to stop doing that regularly once they are out of their teens. I haven't done it in quite a while, though, until this morning.
Or maybe I have done it but have not been conscious of it? I'm not sure, really, but I do remember huffing and puffing away on the stationary bike--hoping it was about time to quit (without my glasses on I couldn't see the clock)--this morning when the instructor got off her bike, went over to the stereo, and started AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." I immediately thought of the title of this post, envisioning posting it somewhere. Here, I thought, is the revival of my blog, leading to other people's thoughts and comments, and everyone realizing that I am not doing nothing; in fact, I am working! I'm just not getting paid for it (she says, in very small letters).
So then, have Facebook and other social networking sites changed the way we think of ourselves, and, by extension, the way we present ourselves to others? I realize that I am a bit late to this party, but one of the things I have been musing about in my private journal for a while now is the this question of why we post the things we do on social networking sites. On the one hand, of course we want other people--people who may be far away but who are nonetheless important to us, for example--to know how we are and what we are doing, but on the other hand, aren't we carefully crafting our self-images? Don't we post pictures of our latest projects, cute kid videos, our dogs asleep, etc. at least partly to see what the reaction from other people will be? Don't we want some sort of validation, whether it's for our hard work, our no-doubt superior parenting skills, beautifully groomed and intelligent pets, or simply for the fact that we've made it through another day?
Yes, I believe is the answer. So then the question becomes, so what? Why should we care? What is the significance of this realization? I, like many others, would argue that the significance of this epiphany is that we are becoming more selfish, more narcissistic. I don't like to admit that about myself, especially because I do try to be unselfish. I also hate admitting that I am not sure what to do about it, especially because I've had so much fun writing this and can't wait to post it!