I was in a coaching session with a prominent speaker once and he was talking to me about how his wife was doing extensive work as a consultant who specializes in working with millennials.
She landed a very high profile client who requested for her to make a video training course for their millennial staff.
I was shocked at what the request was.
They were looking for someone to teach their millennials things like how it was rude to stare at your phone when someone is talking to you.
They wanted to teach them a proper thing to do when being introduced to someone is to make eye contact and shake their hand.
The issue the client was experiencing with the millennial staff had to do with a lack of the softer skills of authentic human interaction.
I remember when catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, they would update me about a big event in their lives and I’d respond “Yeah! I remember seeing that on facebook.” They would bring something else up to which I replied “Yeah! I saw that on facebook too!”
Was it weird I was keeping up with what’s going on in people’s lives without having interacted with them?
I think what I was doing was technically considered stalking.
It was my turn to catch my friends up so I was trying to think about the most interesting things going on in my life to tell them, but I was just living an average life.
For some reason, I felt like I had to impress them and on my way home that night, I asked myself,
“When did friendship become less about connecting and more about showing off?”
You jump on social media and see one friend who went skydiving.
You read the comments:
“Wow! That’s so awesome!”
You see another friend who’s hanging out at a party with a well known celebrity.
You see the comments:
“How’d you meet him???”
You see another friend who travels all over the world to some of the most beautiful remote locations who just seems to be living life to the fullest and while you’re sitting in your pajamas at home at 9PM on a Tuesday night, you get an overwhelming sense of FOMO and find yourself thinking “Man, what am I doing with my life?”
Becoming a little jealous of your friends, you decide to start doing whatever you can to be able to post something worthy that can get other peoples acknowledgements as well.
You start posting up photos of your food. You decide to go out to a concert with your friends and you wait in line forever after the show to get a photo with the famous singer and think to yourself “I am definitely posting this up on Instagram”.
You refresh your feed over and over again as you see the notifications come in.
“Eleanor and 2 others liked your photo”
“John has commented on your photo ‘cool!’”
You keep refreshing your feed and the likes eventually stop coming in, and you’re a little disappointed because you didn’t get as much as you’d wanted.
So begins the journey of trying to hunt for more interesting things you can do to post about so you can get more acknowledgment in order to feel good about yourself.
The problem though, is you feel good for only a moment. You just get a temporary high. You’ve become an addict and now you’re feigning for your next fix.
We now live in a generation where technology and social media has become an integral part of our lives.
I realized as I read my facebook feed, it was an illusion that made me feel connected to others when in reality, I really wasn’t.
It amazed me how much time I spent in a day staying updated about other people without ever having to talk to them. What was even worse was I started comparing myself with others and mostly, it just made me a little depressed.
When we look at what our friends are up to on social media, there are times it’s nice to see what’s going on with their lives, but the problem becomes when we start comparing ourselves with them and let it affect our identity.
Social Media Gives You the Illusion That Your Friend’s Lives Are Much More Exciting Than it Really is Because Most Are Filtering Out The Boring Parts
The problem is when you portray only your best self, you are sacrificing authenticity in an attempt to get acknowledgment.
Have you ever seen those photos on the internet showing comparison photos of celebrities with and without their make up on? The differences are shocking enough to make you think “oh my God, she is nowhere as beautiful as I thought she was.”
If you use social media to make yourself look better like these celebrities do, no one will ever see the real you. It’s even worse because no one will ever connect with the real you because they don’t know who that is in the first place.
There is This Paradox Where We Are Hyperconnected Through Social Media, But We Are Losing The Softer Skills of Cultivating Spaces That Permit Real Connections.
Think about when instant messaging first became popular. You are talking in real time, but you have the ability to delete and edit your responses before sending it. You have much more time to think about how you respond before you say anything.
Then came a whole array of apps like instagram, twitter and facebook that further enable us to edit ourselves to our liking before releasing anything to the world.
For me, social media was much more of a distraction rather than a connection. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I definitely found myself distracted by it many times. Every time I was in the middle of a conversation with someone and I see a notification pop up on my phone, I couldn’t help but look at it. It was like an itch that needed to be scratched.
I’d only post about the good events going on in my life, but leave out all the rest. It probably made me look much more interesting than I actually was.
When I didn’t get the amount of likes I was hoping for, I realized it was unhealthy because I was measuring my self worth based on a number.
As I struggled with my distractions from social media, I’ve come to realize what I was craving the most was great relationships. I have a strong feeling you are as well.
Since the birth of social media, it is now a huge risk more than ever to be yourself. One wrong social media post can ruin your reputation. One bully can embarrass you in front of a whole online network of people you know. It makes total sense why people have their guard up and carefully craft their image online.
What happens when people see the real you? Will they still like you?
The truthful answer is we don’t know. They may still like you or they may not, but the real question is which would you rather have, acknowledgement of who you want to be or authentic connection with who you really are?
Real Connection Only Occurs When You Come From a Place of Authenticity and Vulnerability. This Means You Need to Have the Courage to be True to Yourself
My hope is we can start living lives where we edit ourselves less and express ourselves more genuinely.
In order to do this, I knew I couldn’t let live conversations die. I needed to take more time to meet people in person, get on a video chat, or go the old fashioned way and hop on a phone call. Any communication where I didn’t have an opportunity to edit myself.
When you take a quiet moment and feel a sense of loneliness bubbling up, it may mean there is a lack of intimacy in your life.
Maybe it’s time for us to refocus and try to impress people less and connect with them more.
I hope my experiences inspired you as much as it inspired me to put my technology down and invest in what really matters and stay truly connected to those we love.
What do you think? How would you like to connect with others today?