The information age is a wonderful time to live in. In this Internet-enabled era when everything can be put in the cloud for storage and future reference, practically every useful piece of information is just within a Google search’s reach, and every contact you’d want to reach is just a Skype or text message away, I can imagine that slow deliberation is giving way to agile reaction. When you expect broadband-level speeds to instantly bridge the gap between question and answer, it’s easy to understand how people could expect quick results with minimal waiting time.
However, in this generation born of channel-flipping, web-surfing, and scene-skipping, I think there’s a real danger of disconnection; the mental link between cause and effect (or the importance of establishing such) is starting to fade away. People are starting to expect payoffs without persistence; a denouement without a buildup; a climax without foreplay. Outrage over clickbait headlines results in venomous comments and frenzied sharing, without examination of the details or source of the article. Why should you bother looking at the math, so to speak, when you can easily get to the bottom line?
Human Highlight Reels
It’s kind of concerning because this kind of mental processing bleeds into how we live our lives… specifically how we posture on social media. We see Facebook timelines, Instagram accounts, and Twitter feeds filled with pictures of happy holidays, sumptuous lunches, and sexy selfies, and we immediately think to ourselves how much we want those things for ourselves, and how disappointing it is that we don’t have them. We see all these other people with more likes, shares, comments, and favorites on their posts, and we want the same social validation and attention to come our way.
So we try to get the same kind of content on our timelines. We yearn to go on vacations to locations that are worthy of being grammed. We want to get the latest gadgets to get the best pictures. We want to get into trendy restaurants and take pictures of our plates–shoot first, eat later. And we patiently wait, check our social media feeds, and wait for the engagement to happen.
And this pattern of impulse buying and consumption is a real danger because more often than not, the gratification of the now comes with the sacrificing of the future. Credit card interest fees, hangovers, unhealthy diets, self-reinforcing addictions to social media attention at the expense of productive activity… the list goes on.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of people out there who are just honestly having a good time, and want to document their happiness. I am not suggesting that people should stop posting pictures of their successes, their triumphs, and their special moments because it might make someone else feel bad about their “less-than” lives, or that engaging in social media per se is self-destructive. But what I am saying is that there has to be a lot more responsibility around it.
When we see someone else’s social media timeline, and they show how pretty or happy they are, we’re immediately feel envious. Perfectly natural human response, no doubt. The next step, though, should be to examine what it would take to get to that same place. Given your income, given the time you have, given your personal circumstances, given any and all obligations you have to attend to and cannot defer or delegate, can you manage to procure that same kind of pleasure or satisfaction? Is there no significant difference in capability and entitlements that separates you from the enjoyments that the other person is experiencing?
If yes, then start planning your way to that place and quench your envy. If no, then just let go and move on.
Live within your means, and not for the likes.