Living for other people, ‘likes’ wastes valuable experiences
Opinion Column: The Scarlett Trotter
The other day, my roommates and I were making plans for going on Spring Break. Beyond my excitement about the warm and sunny beach, horseback riding in the water (it’s a thing) and having dinner in a cave (also a thing), I suddenly found myself thinking about our trip in a series of Instagram posts, which really got me thinking.
Are we living our lives through how many likes we can get? Isn’t it sad that our social media platforms are more social than our actual social lives? This needs to stop.
Put down your phone and smell the roses without having to take a picture, editing it and posting it on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I see this happen when people travel, and it seems as if travelers need the validation from other people. You know you’re in the mountain ranges of Northern Italy, and we know you’re in the mountains, so do you really have to prove it to us by making an album of 562 pictures of just the trees? And by the way, how did you get around all the trails with the phone completely in your face? This is really not okay. Just the other day I was reading an article about how many people died from taking dangerous selfies. How sad is that? An article called, “Week in the United Kingdom” says the death toll for those killed by taking selfies officially exceeded the number of those dead due to shark attacks. I don’t know about you, but personally I am not a fan of the headline, “Death by Selfie.”
When you go to another country, state or city, you go for yourself. You travel to better yourself, get a tan, eat (my forte) or to relax, right? So why is that when we all, including myself, feel the need to document what we are doing every single second of the day? I am not saying that we shouldn’t create memories and savor images of these memories that can last our lifetimes. But why does it feel like when we do this, we aren’t doing it for ourselves, and instead for our social media followers?
In one of my classes this past week, we talked about the power of “should.” According to this concept, we all feel like we live mediocre lives in comparison to what we see other people do online. Whether it’s helping hungry orphans in an African nation or saving the whales in Fiji, the theory suggests that we all, as social media users, feel the need to live a “should” life in aiming to be like individuals who presumably live “better” lives than us. Who cares if we’re not like everyone else? Isn’t that the point of social media anyway? To be our own unique selves and contribute to society by doing what we do? I would love to be helping out starving whales in Scandinavia, but I can’t. It sucks, but I can’t.
What I can do is go to my sorority’s awareness walk for Alzheimer’s disease in Princeton. I can tweet about how I watched One Tree Hill for four straight hours yesterday and I definitely can Instagram the orange leaves on the ground and squeal about autumn (apologies for being basic, but not really).
I can do all of that without feeling bad, and on the flip-side, I don’t have to do all that and still not feel bad or feel like I am missing out on the world. It’s funny because today we seem to follow the notion of, “pics or it didn’t happen," or more relevant to our generation, “tweets or it didn’t happen.” We need to stop living our lives for others. I know you might think I am being overdramatic and exaggerating the reality of the situation — but am I really? I post on Instagram for fun, but I post my pictures at a specific time in which I am most likely to receive likes. I know for a fact that I am not the only who does this.
We need to prioritize ourselves and living in the real world. Post your heart away, as long as you’re actually enjoying the moment you're capturing as well.
Biya Haq is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in digital communication, information and media. Her column, "The Scarlet Trotter," runs on alternate Fridays.