Social media and the Now

The “Live in the Moment” mantra has been preached so profusely that it induces a gag-reflex where it would have usually received some thoughtful nods and complete mental 180’s. Of course we live in the moment. We’re breathing this polluted air while we digest the political upheaval in the Middle East and actively partake in enlightening discussions about current events — “current” being the key word. Our lives consist of appreciating food, whether it be at chic restaurants with unpronounceable names or at cafes that foster an image of independence and creativity for the broke and — oddly, proud of it — screwed. When we’re not appreciating the finer gastronomical things in life, we’re traveling to foreign places or even the next street corner and eating up all culture we can. The point is, we human beings, we’re living the moment, and we’re appreciating it. We’re savoring our food, tasting all of our travels, and synchronizing ourselves with the pleasures of the now. Anyone dubious to this claim just has to look at Facebook and Instagram: therein lies tangible proof that we do, indeed, bask in the present.

In fact, Instagram will show you that we’re so infused with the present that we are driven by the quest to publish our every waking action on social media. Nothing is excluded from the heavenly gates of Instagram and Facebook. Not food, nor restaurants, nor birthday parties, nor body parts. Instagram does not discriminate. It will let you publish anything worthy of your generous and yet limited time as a human on this earth. If you feel like the mouth-watering sushi gazing pleadingly at you from your plate is worth the ten seconds you need to upload the picture to show everyone just how delicious it is, then so be it. Chances are you might suffer from cardiac arrest by the time the picture is well and fully loaded, but well before you’ve gotten one bite of that promise of heaven. But that’s beside the point. While you’re at it, maybe take a picture of that unearthly fish that just appeared in your backyard pond because its colors are so magical people could write songs about it. Except, chances are by the time you’ve focused your camera on it, it has swum well on its merry way. And while you’ve spent your time trying to photograph the fish, to capture the moment on your phone, you’ve barely processed the moment at all.

Most people use Instagram and Facebook to post up traces of enjoyed moments. But now those traces are unrepresentative of the moments themselves. This ranges from the girl wielding her phone every five seconds at a gathering of people while ordering them to smile and “act like you’re having a good time,’ to the guy taking a closeup of his new car. Why not actually have a good time instead? Why not just get inside the bloody car? What are the chances the guy gets run over before he even breathes in the leather aroma of his new beauty? On the bright side, at least he’ll have the seemingly tangible display of satisfaction posted on Instagram that he never got to experience for himself.

These pictures aren’t for ourselves. If they were, we’d keep them stashed away for only us to see. These pictures are for the audience that social media has us believe is tracking our lives. If they can even be called lives. Because the truth is we’re not living, at least not really. Some people would rather lose time embellishing a crappy moment for the camera than actively embellishing the moment for themselves. They want people to know they’re having fun or at least to believe they are. Instagram and Facebook are a great way to share experiences and moments while actively engaging with the community. But they have also led to our losing touch with the present. We do not know how to live in the moment. And as if that weren’t enough, it seems that we have begun to live for others instead of living for ourselves.