I used to think I was interesting. Always quick with a joke, a humorous anecdote or a hilarious story about some bizarre situation that I found myself in. I used to think my unnatural retention of trivia and encyclopedic knowledge of a myriad of subjects was enough to add flavor to any conversation. I realize now that I am not nearly as interesting as I thought.
I can’t hold a candle to the fascinating allure of a glowing screen in someone’s hand. It seems like everyone I surround myself with is more interested in the banal information scrolling across the face of their phone than they are in what we are talking about or experiencing firsthand. And to be quite honest, it’s getting really fucking irritating.
Something somewhere else is always more fascinating than the present. That seems to be the general consensus in our twenty-first century’ lives. Something that happened an hour ago on Facebook is much more intriguing than the people or interaction that is taking place around your hunched shoulders and bowed head.
Even major life events and cherished moments are viewed through a phone screen with the reasoning that we want to capture them on film to watch them later.
That’s all well and good, but guess what? You ain’t gonna watch them later. And guess what else? You just missed the actual moment while you were adjusting your focus or deciding how to widen your shot.
Gone forever while you were trying to get Instagram artistic. Filtering the world through the phone in your hand is not only a detriment to your social skills but also your chances for a true romantic connection.
Gay bars used to be filled with heat and sexual promise. Now they’re full of a new breed of gay men whose faces are lit from below like Heather in The Blair Witch Project, reading about what their other friends are doing or scoping out their Grindr feed.
Forget for a moment the fact that staring down at your phone instead of looking around and smiling makes you less attractive, but scoping out your sexual options online is often a one-way ticket to disappointment when there could be a smoking hot suitor just a few feet away.
“It’s not always a disappointment,” is the refrain I’ve heard from many people who surf the hookup sites. Sure, I agree — there are times when Scruff gives you exactly what you need, but what’s the percentage? Twenty-five percent of the time? Ten percent? Three? Someone may be extremely attractive in their photograph but that doesn’t translate to sexual chemistry when you meet face-to-face.
Attraction is only ignited when two people talk and flirt in person; when you can hear the person’s voice or feel their hand on your arm. That’s when you feel the electricity that is written about in poems and love songs. Certainly not when you see their shirtless selfie with their tongue hanging out of their mouth.
The other side of this internet-bred disappointment is the on-going mystery of the fake profile or the use of someone else’s picture. I have to know: what do these people think is going to happen when the truth is revealed? Has anyone ever pulled this idiotic move and had something good come out of it? It boggles my mind. The internet is a breeding ground for the worst kind of lies. Don’t get me wrong — when you meet someone in person they may be hiding some horrors from you too, but the odds of it happening in an online profile are much, much greater.
People meet through hook-up sites or dating sites and are crushed or angry when they discover someone misrepresented himself. Most of this disappointment can be avoided by meeting someone for the first time face-to-face without the specter of Internet embellishment hanging over your heads. Sure, this means Nev and Max of Catfish would be out of a job, but it would spare a lot of broken hearts.
I know it’s hard to meet the right people and it takes some effort to hunt down what you want, but people had been doing it for a long time before the invention of the smartphone. Have some balls. Talk to strangers. Leave your fucking house and go out into the world. You’ll be much happier with the results.
Speaking of happy, let’s shift gears.
There are 1.1 billion people on Facebook who can tell you about what kind of day they are having, the food they are eating, the new car they bought and where they went on vacation.
Our culture today demands that we trumpet our success and happiness to others or else our achievements lose their merit. Psychologically however, it’s the striving for this very success that is supposed to truly bring us joy. The majority of us make ourselves seem happier and more successful in all the veins of social media so we can keep up with others who are doing the exact same thing.
When you spend your time scanning your Facebook feed while engaging in any social activity, you are basically seeing what other people are doing and measuring it against how happy you are with where you are in the present.
Not only that, it is a proven fact that 60 percent of people don’t feel better about themselves after surfing through social media. Why is this? Maybe because when you’re lonely you see photos of happy couples. Maybe because when you’re broke you see photos of brand new houses and designer clothes. Maybe because when you’re buried under paperwork or sweating through a double shift you see that annoying, overused photo of someone’s feet on a sandy beach.
You see the things you think you need or want when in reality you are seeing the things that people want you to see in order to believe that they have a better life than you do. It’s a manifestation of our societal desire for acceptance and the unending coveting of other people’s lives.
Maybe you think you are above all of this shallowness, but none of us are. Every photo you post of acquired belongings or exotic vacations while telling yourself it’s merely to share an experience holds a tiny glimmer that people will respond with envy or desire.
So why live your life with your eyes glued to a screen filled with the lives and lies of others? I know that in our plugged-in present that there is no reason to leave your house. Anything and everything can be accessed through your phone or your laptop. Socialization, sex, music, movies, food — all of this and more can be ordered and brought to your door.
Our electronic culture is like a bag of potato chips — there is no substance, we consume a great deal and it leaves us wanting more. Our amazing jumps in technology are making us a less social society. If they were to paint the Evolution Of Man now, the last image in the line would not be Man standing erect, but an image of him in mid-stride with his head down, hunched over a phone in his hand.
Life is for living. It’s a journey, not a destination. Save your surfing for your alone time and feel the sun on your face. You can ask for directions instead of using Google Maps. You can enjoy an amazing meal without putting it on Instagram.
You can smile and talk to a stranger in a bar or a coffee shop instead of scanning through countless self-aware photos on Grindr. Candy Crush isn’t as interesting as the conversation you are having with your boyfriend, even if it’s about the new laundry detergent. You know why? Because this is now. This is what life is.
When you look back on your life it is the moments and experiences that you will remember, not how many Likes your summation of these events received on Facebook.
Henry David Thoreau said it best: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land. There is no other life but this.”