The Forced Spontaneity Effect: Living For The Post
Our ability to share whatever we’re doing, whenever we’re doing it, with whoever we want online is an amazing way to stay connected, but it is becoming a massive burden. Actually, it isn’t an ability, but more of an obligation. Our social networks are like giant communities made up of all our online friends. Instead of grabbing lunch or a cup of coffee to ‘catch up’, we just need to stalk their page for a few minutes to find out what they’ve been up to, who they’ve been talking to, where they’ve been going. If we aren’t updating our profiles then it looks like we aren’t doing anything with our lives. If you aren’t on social media, you don’t even look like a person.
This massive online connectivity has allowed us to maintain a social circle so incredibly wide. Our friends from high school don’t disappear after we graduate; they’re still there, popping up in our news feed, instagram-ing their vacation photos, tweeting about their pets. High school reunions are now useless. We know everything we need to know about them from their posts. That guy you talked to at a party for ten minutes and friended the next day is now a part of your life forever. We keep tabs on anyone, everyone.
But are we stretching ourselves too thin?
We are not really cultivating friendships, but rather just collecting them, sacrificing conversation for connection. It’s rude to reject a friend request so most of us just accept everyone. We have way more friends than we can keep up with. Our real friends are getting lost in the mob. I rationalize it to myself that I am building an audience, but that’s not what social media is meant for. We are people not businesses, yet we still continue to promote ourselves as if we are trying to sell a product.
I suppose we are the product. We are marketing ourselves for their approval and validation. We are simplifying who we are, what we do so that when someone views our profile they can easily understand us and will buy what we’re selling; becoming a member of our community, our audience.
Maintaining our image online is a lot of work and my biggest problem with it is that we are building an image instead of pursuing it. We are creating our ideal selves online, editing comments and posting photos that make us look our best. There is no time to edit in real life. We cannot control how we are perceived in reality. We are disguising our quirks for the sake of fitting the mold that we are striving towards.
Therefore, we have transitioned to defining ourselves online. We are no longer being judged based on our words and actions, but rather the content we are sharing. Our character is now made up of hyperlinks and pixelated images. We are no longer in the business of self improvement, but rather image refinement. We are presenting our ideal selves, but we are never becoming them, never striving for them. We are covering up our insecurities not getting past them.
We fake experiences so we can capture them and strengthen our image. We go out and record a video of us jumping off a cliff to look adventurous. We take a selfie studying to look productive. We rant about politics to look outgoing and involved. I like to think of it as The Forced Spontaneity Effect. The habit of extorting spontaneity, squeezing ourselves into interesting situations so that we ourselves appear more interesting on our profiles. We are no longer living in the moment, doing for the sake of doing, but rather living for the post, planning out excitement for the sake of publicity. Is what you are doing fun or does it just look fun? The time we spend away from our routines, experiencing the world, used to be a time free from saving face, but now it has become the time where we work the hardest on crafting it.
Does it really matter, though?
Whether we do something just to do it or to look like someone who would do it, we are technically still doing it, we are having these experiences, right? We are living bolder, more interesting lives. Does the motivation really matter when it is leading to a confident generation of individuals up-to-date and involved with current events, who seizes the day and follows our dreams? They say fake it until you make it. Maybe testing out our ideal selves online allows us to see what works and rewards us with the validation necessary to fuel the leap of faith we take to become it?