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Social media supplants living?

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Renee’s Tweet this week about how much time people spend online reading and talking about dance versus actually dancing is keenly close to some thoughts I have been having about social media in general. I really love the way social media connects us, and opens our world to new ideas and people the world over. It really is a miracle. On the other hand, sometimes I feel a little gross in the pit of my stomach when I see a sea of people pulling out their phones or cameras at every event, holding it in front of them trying to capture the moment to look at later–a true barrier between them and what they are experiencing.

What about seeing it NOW instead of seeing it in digital form later? What drives us to want to record our experiences rather than BE in them?

Case in point: When Chris presented me with my new beautiful anniversary ring in Vegas just a little over a week ago, I couldn’t stop looking at it. And at him. And at the Bellagio fountains. Taking it all in. But then my very next instinct was “I can’t wait to share this!” and my phone came out… Chris rolled his eyes. “You’re going to Facebook this aren’t you?” Guilty as charged, I put the phone away until a more opportune time–when we weren’t in the middle of this amazing atmosphere, sharing in it together without a piece of tech between us. But it makes me wonder: when and how and why did this instinct embed itself so readily into my psyche? And how much are we seeing this come so naturally to all of us these days…?

Naturally it is fun to share our experiences with our friends, and social networking makes it faster and easier than ever! I liken it to the tree in the forest–there is a part of us that believes that if no one is there to witness what is going on, it didn’t fully happen. In my opinion, even part of the human instinct to partner is to choose someone to be a witness to our lives–a person you can turn to anytime and say “Remember that time we…?” But there I was, with my best friend in the world, sharing in a beautiful moment right there of our own making! Why did I feel such a strong pull to widen the circle of witnesses right then and there?

There is an old proverb that when we share our blessings they are doubled, when we share our struggles they are halved. I think that social media has created a way of instantaneously expanding and diminishing our personal experiences and emotional states. Something about being able to post a pic of that ring and capture that image for “all time” made it feel bigger, more important, more joyful…because I had people around me who cared and would appreciate it, and my blessings would thus be doubled. And when something bad or frustrating happens, the same instincts drive us to post it somewhere to share and be reminded that we are cherished and supported, and we feel our difficulties shrink a little bit with every sympathetic comment we receive. And this immediate gratification is addictive!

But not all social networking is about what WE are doing. In fact, a vast majority isn’t about our lives at all, but instead looking around the great fishbowl created by living in the public eye of der interwebs, and discussing, debating, and appraising what *others* are doing. And while I think there is tremendous value in these discussions and explorations, how much is too much? Where do we draw the line? 

When has it ceased to become an exercise in growth and greater understanding, and more about trying to impose our feelings or agenda on the world around us?

Jonathan Fields writes a bit about it in his blog, Awake at the Wheel:

“There’s a classic John Lennon line that goes…

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

I sometimes wonder if that applies equally to the brave new world of social media, twitter, facebook and beyond. Comes a point where talking about what’s going on in the world, even with great people, supplants participating in what’s going on in the world. And, no doubt, while I love the connection that certain technologies like twitter, Facebook and social media afford me, I’m also increasingly aware of it’s ability to become not only a time-sink…but a life sink.”

Dont’ get me wrong, I acknowledge the value of great conversation.

But, I don’t want to spend all my time writing, tweeting and updating about what other people are doing, discovering, achieving and even failing at. Some of my time, sure. Learning from others and sharing what they’ve uncovered has it’s place.

But, as Theodore Roosevelt shared:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

In the end, I sometimes wonder whether social media tends too much towards Roosevelt’s “gray twilight” and not enough toward his “glorious triumphs…checkered by failure.”

So, maybe, from time to time, it’s healthy to step away from talking, tweeting, IMing, updating and writing a bit more. Long enough, at least, to become less of a value added conduit…and more of a source of creation.

Something to think about that next time we sidle up to our computers for an evening of running commentary and witty banter…about how someone else is living his life or running her business.

Curious, what do you think?”

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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