8/25/14

8 Ways #SocialMedia is Molding Us


  For the longest time, I questioned the sanity of people who were perpetually drawn to staring at their pelvis. I used to raise an eyebrow at this madness, but then a light bulb flicked on one day: Oh, it's that snazzy little gadget they're drawn to! It's everywhere. Church, parties, classes, get togethers. Once I even saw a couple out on a date who were staring more romantically at their iPhones than each other. Perhaps they were just Facebook chatting in hopes to get to know each other. My bad.

Whatever the case is, it seems that these devices are causing a lot more damage than simply brainwashing and making us speak their alienating language.

Actually, while I enlighten you, I'm going to take a picture of my #smoothie and the #sunrise and then squeeze my microscopic boobs together to get a sexy Instie shot. Eh, what the heck - I'm not wearing makeup anyway, so I'll say I'm doing the #nomakeup challenge while I'm at it. Moving on.


i. Social Media is Ruining Small Talk

...At least for my generation.

I find that when I introduce myself to teens and even some young adults, they have great difficulty keeping any sort of flow in conversation. This is especially a problem for those who migrate towards the quieter side, as they are only training themselves to stay quiet. I'm not saying that they need to present a monologue, because hey, I'm introverted myself and understand not wanting to babble and carry on with everything. I'm saying that because they have social media to occupy them and fill in any silence, they have no incentive to practice the art of meeting someone. They are teaching themselves to use social media as a crutch when they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Because of this, they lack communication skills (before you get defensive, understand that Twitter doesn't count) and simply cannot add onto conversation or respond to basic questions in an articulate way.

 
ii. Social Media is Blocking Community With One Another
 
Look around the room. Do you see one person who isn't locked onto their device?

I didn't think so either.  This is the one that gets to me the most. We no longer have real community with one another. Sure, it may be you and some good friends in the same room, but are you speaking to each other, or is there an overall silence with the occasional clicking of the phone keys? Maybe you are speaking; but is it staggered with glancing up and down at your Facebook feed? It saddens me that a screen filled with snippets of what others are doing interrupts the time and beauty of community with the important people in your life. Are you listening? Nothing tears deeper than trying to speak your heart to someone and your attention being rivaled with their phone. Put your phone down and really listen. Staggering important conversation with social media is not only ignoring the other, but also insulting and self-centered (and trust me, they can sense it too). What we must realize is that now is now. These conversations and community are what we will remember and hold close to in life and the years to come.
 
iii. Social Media is Making Us Stupid
 
If someone begins to speak in text and Internet slang, flee; as they have been infected and are now a part of the apocalypse (if they take a Snapchat picture of you, quickly deactivate their account before the infection takes its toll on you too). There was once a dark time in my life. At 10 years old, this dark time was caused by an infectious disease known as Club Penguin. I was introduced to a world full of multi-colored penguins saying things like, "ROFL", "lol lol jk", "ur rlly funny". Why, a new language! Little did I know, these multi-colored penguins were out to deceive me. The infection spread throughout my intellect, and left me exclaiming madness such as, "BRB!" to excuse myself from any circumstance. The infection eventually ceased, but with much grace and knowledge others contributed towards my intellect.

No matter how hilarious our run on sentences seem, and no matter how bubbly and white we sound talking about our totes adorbs "PINK" sweatpants, social media is a deceitful little booger that attempts to mesh cyber world with the real world (and, makes us stupid). It's sort of like the serpent in the Garden of Eden...but with a digital form of the "Apple".

p.s. Spell check is killing me right now.
 
iv. Social Media is Portraying Our Self Worth as "Likes"

Unfortunately, we now base who we are on the amount of "likes" and "hearts" and "favorites" on social media. The more, the better. It's a way of receiving reassurance without asking for it. We find our self worth in typing out a clever status or posting a captivating photo or copying/pasting a Marilyn Monroe quote, and eagerly waiting for the "likes" to rise to the number that pleases us. If we don't reach what we mentally label "Good enough", then we're suddenly failures. Someone else reached 200 "hearts" on their filtered Instagram selfie, but you only reached 20. Chuck Norris retweeted someone else's Chuck Norris joke, but not yours. Maybe you should just give up, because you're apparently not pretty enough or smashingly hilarious or "Instagram famous", right?

Wrong.

Numbers on social media amount to nothing. It's a way of showing that we saw a post and want to leave a history mark that we connected with it (no pun intended) in some way. People aren't comparing your photo or status or tweet to someone else's and deciding who deserves the number. Numbers simply cannot determine our self worth. Our self worth consists of our philosophy, attitudes toward life and toward others, our actions, our own uniqueness and who God created us to be.
 
 
v. Social Media is Making Us Narcissistic

Flooding your social media feeds with post workout photos, your half naked body, mirror selfies of flexed muscles (Guys, we saw you in the Burger King drive-thru), BOOBS (Ladies, it's more than not being able to play hide-and-seek), no makeup selfies (whaaaat?), your daily plate full of greens, and of course, the obligatory duck face, are used as tools to give a sense of self-esteem, which then leads to narcissism. Don't deny it. We like compliments, but simply liking them is not the issue  - the constant need for them is. When we reach the point of figuring out what about us gets the compliment and attention, we take that and run with it. Whether it's your Paleo Diet or your cleavage, the result is a page full of you and a big ego.

p.s. Some of you likely argue that you post for you, to which I respond - Why do you not write these things and plaster photos of your half naked body in a diary rather than public sites?

 
vi. Social Media is Wasting Our time
 
 And we wonder why we don't get anything accomplished at the end of the day? Sure, Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga (by the way, I'm banishing anyone from my friend list if I get another darn request) may be fun and give you a good thumb workout, but what did you accomplish that is going to benefit you or someone else? Did you actually accomplish anything by spending half of your day scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and Twitter? Do you feel like you are really living by constantly snapchatting pointless videos? These social media activities have no substance. It benefits your online profile, but not the air you breathe and the world you live in. As stressed earlier, now is now.
 
vii. Social Media is Ruining Our Reputations
 
 "If you want to know who somebody really is, go to their Twitter account."

Though Facebook and Instagram have their share, Twitter is what sticks out like a sore thumb. Don't let Twitter's slogan fool you. This place is a personal dumping ground. It's filled with people who post every detail of the dirt in their life and all things that would make their parents cringe. I've seen gossip, erotic material, pessimistic attitudes, offensive language. Have you heard of sub-tweeting? If this is a new term to you, sub-tweeting is the art of tearing someone apart and gossiping about them, but leaving off their name. I've seen that too. I've seen the beginnings of it, and I've also seen the result of the victim realizing they are being attacked - and it's painful to watch unfold. I've known folks who have lost jobs due to posts on social media. I've known folks who have done their share of posting absolutely unnecessary things. I've had my share of posting negative things, which is precisely why I chose to deactivate my account last year.

You may have an issue with something or have a crappy day, but Twitter is not the place to express it. That's what trusted friends and the diary are for. Never assume that your tweets aren't being read and that it is a safe place to vent. The more negativity you post, the more negativity you will keep finding. Deactivate your account if you have to. Your reputation is at stake here.
 
viii. Social Media is Making Life Seem Meaningless

What happened to just enjoying the moment? Every single detail of our lives are either photographed or written out for everyone to see. It would be different if these posts were sporadic, but we are inundated with them. The picture of the sunrise suddenly looks dull, the cute kid gets annoying, the green smoothie looks more and more like spit up, the witty status about pizza loses its zing, the covers of "Let It Go" make us want to sledgehammer our laptops. It's too much. Is it impossible to stay in the present, in the now, in the moment, and not feel forced to pull out the device to document all of the details? Sometimes moments are meant to stay as moments. Those are what we will remember on down the line and smile about as we reminisce, not silly VSCO Cam photos and status updates. Like the old saying states, "Less is more." Will we tell our great grandchildren all of the adventures we had, the wonderful conversations we shared, the beautiful and messy lives we lived; or that 90% of our time was spent with an electronic device interrupting the purity and simplicity of moments? The fondest memories I have are those when loved ones and I lived in the moment and simply enjoyed good company...but without the electronic device interrupting. There is laughter, there is authenticity, there is beauty in going through life and just living. These are the moments we will remember. These are the moments we will cherish and hold close to. These are the moments that makeup life.

So, I challenge you: Put the phone down. Put the iPod down. Click out of Facebook and close the laptop. Stop worrying about the red notification. Stop worrying about what others are doing. Enjoy the now. Live.
 
 

7/6/14

childhood



  "So many people grow up to enjoy adulthood because it is better than their childhood, or they forget all together how great childhood was. I chase my childhood every day." --Brooke Shaden




As a little child, the "Big girls" were always my hero. I remember that distinct, fluttery feeling in my stomach when I plopped myself down on the high-school bleachers. The giddy cheerleaders, their hair pulled up in high ponytails and big smiles plastered on, were thrilling to my 7 year old soul. It was like watching a Disney World parade (just minus the lights and princesses and fireworks and with screechy bleachers and high-schoolers and crappy nachos instead). I remember watching Mary-Kate & Ashley in Holiday in the Sun, and just staring in complete awe. Their adventures as teens in the Bahamas, having their own suite, tanning and flirting with early 2000s savvy boys, and saving a yacht from crime all seemed pretty sweet to me. I remember a scene from running into a family friend in the library: "Anna Gray, you're growing up so fast! How old are you?" "Only eight." I remember fighting the presence of my childhood to grow up. I would often daydream about becoming a teenager; a "Big girl", if you please. Sometimes I would fix my eyes on the gold trimmed closet mirror and wonder, "What will I be like when I'm a teenager?" Would I be tall and have lots of freckles? Would I have dark hair and tan skin? Would I be a cheerleader? A singer? Would I be hyper? Sugary sweet? I was curious, and I wanted to grow up...and fast.

I remember waking up as a 13 year old, a teenager, a "Big girl." After years of anticipation, the time had come. Makeup and concert tickets and my first pair of "heels" and other "big girl" things made their way into my life. It was all good, yes, but I still didn't feel quite like the teenager I had always imagined. This could be partially due to the fact that I only wore the same 4 dresses, got cute haircuts and never styled them, and was too small for even a training bra. I remember calling my best friend and the two of us daydreaming about getting jobs and our licenses and going shopping without an adult and having cell phones and wondering what life would be like once we turned 16. So close, yet so far. It's funny how time slips by. I remember waking up as a 16 year old. The camera lens I worked so hard to save for happened to arrive that day. We went to the lake that evening to celebrate, and I remember the cookie cake and exact design and color of the candles that I blew out. I can almost smell the candle smoke - It has that distinct, sharp aroma - the smell of celebration and new beginnings and...well...happiness. I remember walking around the beach the following week and feeling this strange twinge of sadness. I suddenly didn't like this "growing up" and being a "big girl" thing. If only time could be paused. I remember it being dusk and the feeling of loneliness settling in. It wasn't that I was physically alone, but I felt as if my mentality was splitting in two, leaving half of me in reality, and the other half nostalgically reflecting on the past. I didn't think anyone would be able to quite understand these thoughts, and it made me feel lonely. Memories from past birthdays and the innocence of childhood started creeping in. Why in the world did I rush my childhood? If only I could have told my 8 year old self that the years would slip by so quickly. If only I could step back into my childhood for a few, sweet minutes. Weren't those the days that we didn't have a care in the world; the days that boys and girls had cooties and make believe and taking bubble baths with your friend was completely normal and summer days were spent in the hot sun, feet in dirt, and playing with the freedom of imagination until sunset? What happened? Where did it go? It was too much. "I don't want to grow up anymore."

I remember waking up as an 18 year old. Something felt different though. Minus the fact that my hair looked like a bad 80s cut that morning, I was basically in a happy medium. Legally being an "adult" didn't completely excite me, but it didn't completely scare me either. Although I boasted days and weeks prior, "I WILL LEGALLY BE A WOMAN", I simply felt content. "Yay for my first cigar and exotic pet and elopement in Switzerland without my parents' consent!" I realized that, sure, I was growing up; but, BUT - I still had the free spirit of my childhood along with it. I wrote on my Facebook newsfeed on my 18th,

"Though I'm technically considered an 'adult' (And could legally adopt a kid. Weird.), I don't feel any older - I still feel like the same AG that chases childhood. For example, this afternoon I swam in the ocean with a dolphin printed boogie board and for dinner, ate nothing but a basket full of hush puppies and a sweet tea. I think this 'growing up' thing will be okay after all."

I think that so often, we either fight to grow up, or we have this intense fear of growing up and long for childhood instead. It's like there is this assumption that growing up and adulthood means that we can no longer have fun, slow down, or even enjoy life. Now I am not saying that we shouldn't strive for maturity - there is a point in time when we need to ditch the Spaghetti Os and living under Mommy's roof for a taste of the real world - but we shouldn't diminish that spark of childlike eagerness that runs in our blood. We need to learn that it is okay to have that zeal of a child. Let's allow our bodies to grow and mature, but let's also allow that eagerness to grow with us.

Here's to chasing childhood.

6/24/14

on contentment



   In my head, I'm supposed to be buying my new camera right about now. I'm supposed to have sold my other and now have the money to buy the new one. But there it is, still on top of the dresser. In my head, I am supposed to have drawers and a closet full of vintage clothing and retro shoes that really define my style. But every time I open my closet doors and the drawers, there lay 5 or 6 new shirts mangled up with 8th and 9th grade clothing. I am supposed to have already bought the romper and the super cute white oxfords that were such eye candy a month ago, but somehow, I don't.  I am supposed to be financially stable. I am supposed to have several hundred dollars tucked away and a steady source of income. But then Clark's vet bill rang up to the pleasant site of $409. Airport food cost a pretty penny. Fast food stole my dollars; money spent immaturely and unwisely. I'm supposed to be somewhere with my career by now. Perhaps 4 or 5 film credits as background and extras work? 2 at the minimum? Maybe a commercial or 2? Several auditions? Possibly leaping ahead and already being in Los Angeles to study? But here I sit, inexperienced, as amateur as when I began my journey, a feeling of utter hopelessness creeping in, and a starving resume saved onto Word. I am supposed to have a job so that I can pay for my phone bill, my car insurance, save for my big leap to California, buy those super cute white oxfords, and get a taste of the real world. But here I am, still searching, still filling out the never ending applications, still hopping from place to place in a car low on gas and finding it exceedingly difficult to find success. I am supposed to have complete peace of mind, eternal happiness, and things are supposed to be working out exactly how I planned them. Instead, that familiar twinge of fear threatens to rob me. I'm supposed to have good health, all of these bodily symptoms gone. But here I am, still dealing with the same recurring symptoms, and getting 0 answers. In  my head, I'm supposed to have constant happiness like everyone who posts photos of their morning Bible study and latte art. Instead, I feel constantly on edge and anxious and sometimes bitter.

In my head, a lot of things are supposed to happen, because isn't it my right to them? My head is telling me that YES, I have a right and deserve these things, yet they don't happen or I don't get them. No matter how much I kick and scream and fight, I seem to hallucinate rope at my feet every time I begin to enter a doorway, constantly tripping me. I feel no peace and no satisfaction and constantly am on the run for MORE of everything, when in reality, I need less.

"A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash-just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse." --Francis Schaeffer

Yet we remain shocked when our lives begin to deteriorate? What I keep having to realize is that "things" don't last forever; the camera, the white oxfords. I'm having to realize that happiness doesn't depend upon a steady job or being successful or having money or looking pretty. Sure, those things are great in the mean time, but they don't last forever and they simply cannot bring everlasting happiness. I wondered for so long why there were so many stories about celebrity deaths due to suicide, celebrities entering rehab from drug addiction, why alcohol seemed to take a toll on their lives, and why they never seemed to have happiness. Then it clicked. They have anything and everything they could ever want. Because there is no God in their lives to sustain them, they turn to materialistic things to fulfill that craving for happiness and contentment. They build and build and build their lives upon finite things; wealthy spouses and pretty houses and all things luxe. They are well off for a while, but what happens when crap hits the fan and those things no longer provide happiness? There is nothing more to look to, other than their own human nature, resulting in the horror of what happens in a fallen world.

I could keep going on, but let's practice something together - let's choose contentment. Let's realize that there is only one God who we can put our hope in and only one God who has the power to gift us contentment to fill that aching, empty feeling. Let's apply what we learned when each of us once was a little child, and practice an act of gratefulness for what we do have. All of it is a gift. It's a gift that we don't deserve and a gift that deserves gratitude. My gosh, it's hard, believe me - but it is rewarding. To carry on with life without that nagging push for more is a gift in and of itself.