Social media is like a knife, right? It can be used to help nourish/protect you or it can kill you. If you’re pulled in too deep on one side, you might never come out comfortably but maybe if you venture into another, you might find that you’ve been lifted spectacularly. I think this is something that everyone understands, chiefly because we’ve all accrued some form of an opinion on the relationship between man and social media.
It just appears as though these opinions more often reflect the effects of digital communication and much less the cause. As in, why do posters post what they do? There are those who theorize that posting to social media facilitates the popularity contest that is Look at Me and Where I’m Going or moonlights as a stamp of approval or disdain. Others simply demand that they use their various outlets for the purpose of work. But there are those who actually do want to share experience. Unfortunately, I only realized this laterally last month when I was in Montauk and walking through a valley of greens (which incidentally gave me poison ivy) to get to a micro-mountain that overlooks a beach.
When I reached my destination, my knee-jerk reaction was to pull out my phone, take a photo and Instagram it. I remembered that I’d left my phone behind in a bout of rebellion against acting like a slave to my digital alerts. I’d resolved to become — as the clichéd saying goes — one with nature. To enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it, not showing it off, and to experience awe in solidarity.
When I got there, though, I didn’t feel emotionally enlightened or like I was doing a service to myself. I wanted to share. Not for the sake of propelling the popularity contest, or marking my presence at the eastern-most point of Long Island. I wasn’t hungry for likes or considering “the brand,” I just thought the scene was beautiful and I wanted to make people who had never seen it or been there feel like they were part of it too.
Of course, I’m no Angel(ou). Often times I post selfies for inconspicuous outfit validation or at the very least to be able to show off how well (or is it poorly?) I put things together. Sometimes I wonder if when I tweet book recommendations or post news articles on Facebook, I’m sharing knowledge or further outlining an imposed opinion of myself and my interests.
Almost every time I ask myself why I post to social media, I consider how honest I can be with myself. I think I’ve concluded that for the most part, it’s nice to keep a record, the way I used to keep scrap books, of what I was thinking, where I had been, who I was with and definitely what I wore. But the question of whether I would be as adamant about regularly posting if there were no third-party onlookers is presented here too and if I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t think I would be. Would you?
-Leandra Medine, illustration by Charlotte Fassler