From mid 2005 onward, children, teens, and adults have been privileged the experience of social media. The means by which people consume media has rapidly evolved. Unlike times past, the consumer is faced with relatively unhindered choice of consumption not relegated to the discretion of media moguls or out of touch network executives who (in my opinion) are motivated by profit first and foremost. While this is not a poor motivation, the primary drawback associated with this pursuit lies in the necessity of pleasing the lowest common denominator of consumers. This is a problem because the easiest means by which to achieve this goal presupposes that one must offend, or alternatively, please, the greatest number of people. This complicates the development of depth of reasoning because in order to achieve the aforementioned, it is necessary for one to only assemble media devoid of intellectual depth, thematic nuance, and critical thought, inevitably depreciating the quality of content assembled for the viewer. Therefore, a balance exists between reaching a targeted, sometimes provocative audience, or constructing information that is accessible and digestible for the greatest number of people.
With the introduction of social media, the barriers to achieving access to content creation is relatively null when compared to periods past. The democratization of internet content has, and continues to, shape this generation, society, and civilization in its entirety. Today exists the prevalence of instantaneous network connection with anyone, anywhere, all the time. We define media consumption littered through timelines (Facebook), news feeds (Twitter), albums (Instagram), and search engines (Google). Technological innovation has re-shaped the structure of society, and these changes have given rise to various opinions of the current generation (Generation Y, or the Millennial generation)s sometimes resonating with condescending, dramatic themes outlining its inability, selfishness, or lack of focus.
The primary focus of shared media lies in sharing experience. The means by which we do so today is convenient, but not necessarily conducive to elaborating upon the nuances, tones, or underlyings of a specific experience. Sharing, liking, and posting take little thought by which to express an idea. These ideas are muted and diluted, sometimes only quantified in value by share calculations or number of re-posts. It is a beautiful thing to share experience, and social media is an excellent means by which to do so.
This post has been in query for a while, about three weeks now, as of today. I left off with:
“A perspective on the prevalence of social media derives from the effect of internet addiction on our daily lives, and how these …”
I had planned to draw out the derivative of our social media obsessions by explaining the the biological processes that influence us. I’d begin by elaborating upon my pedestrian understanding of neurological processes – serotonin response, neural pathways, addiction, happiness, desensitization, so on and so forth.
I’d stopped mid-thesis after stumbling upon a photo of an old friend. The photo passed nonchalantly by as I (yes, am guilty to admit), caught myself mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook news feed. The photo passed, I continued to scroll, slowly migrated from the trackpad to the keyboard with a quick CTRL + UP, and reoriented my focus on the few lines I typed just moments before. It is a beautiful thing to share experience, and social media is an excellent means by which to do so.
At that point in time, I realized that I had to reconsider my primary assertions. How could I justify that the maximum potential behind capturing a moment consists of capturing the essence of the moment, almost always – candidly? I took a break and challenged myself to synthesize the two ideas. It occured to me that a photo could be just as powerful, regardless of the formality of the photo (the nature of the subject positioning or illustration of landscape ambience).
I realized that ultimately, I wasn’t writing about the nature behind constructing a powerful photograph. It wasn’t about capturing a photo designed to spur the emotions of audiences that fall within the bounds of the lowest common denominator. I came to a mode of self-realization. I found myself trying to make sense of the passage of time and the evolution of the cumulative relationships that define my present self.
The photo of my old friend reminded me of the past and our experiences with one another. It was a photo of an old friend at the present time, a period of time detached from the reminiscent past.
I come to this point in my essay reaffirming an old but important theme – time is a precious resource, the most important factor ruling each aspect of our lives.
Generation (x-1: parents; x-2: grandparents, etc) scorns ours, contemplating that our lack of dedication, persistence, and short-attention spans are functions of information-overload. I will agree to an extent. Logging in to Facebook the moment one fires up his/her laptop is not healthy, nor is mindlessly scrolling through a digital assortment of photos and filters. Our state of existence is defined by push of a button accessibility.
Perhaps these tools represent a truism: expression in the past was limited to availability of resources, and skill. In the 1920’s, literacy was nowhere as common as today. In the 1930’s, the average person didn’t have access to photography like one does today. In the 1940’s, people did not have the luxury of sharing stories over the phone because of a simple expense. Even in the 1990’s, widespread information broadcasting was limited to those who had access to televesion networks, which is primarily a function of monetary resources.
Today, people have the ability to capture, create, and share ideas, feelings, and moments in time as a means of expression, enabled by easy access to the tools that are available to the masses (think Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat). Sure – it can exist as a societal detriment – the prospect of merging the digital world with the physical; however, it is not difficult to argue that it has done more good than harm to our society.
As a result of these criticisms of our generation, social phenomena have materialized in an effort to challenge the negative perspectives on our generation. Some refuse to touch their cell phones during social gatherings, others utilize applications that limit time spent on specific sites, while a select few depart from the digital world of sharing almost entirely. This signals a consciousness of a rapidly evolving world altering the face of a generation.
These realizations underscore the value of time. It enables one to identify personal intentions – “do I want to go on this hike because I look forward to the physical benefits of climbing 5 miles up the side of a mountain and the visceral ecstacy that will ensue as I overlook the valley below?” or.. “am I doing this to post to Facebook to seem urban and trendy?”
The value of a photo, to me, is synonymous to the function of an hourglass. At the beginning of time, few grains of sand line the bottom of the hourglass. Over time, the grains accumulate, substantiated by slow but deliberate additions of other grains over periods of time. Eventually, the bottom of the hourglass is full and bottom heavy – the converse of the beginning of time.
Each grain is symbolic of accumulative experience. The passage of grains through an hourglass is an elegant sight, reaffirmed by an air of certainty and deliberation. Similarly – each relationship shared with another person is similar to the function of an hourglass. During specific periods of time, the hourglass drops grains of sand steadily and surely. However, the accumulation of these sands is dependent upon an external force – an individual’s decision to contribute to the energy that forces the sands to fall. Each grain, on its own, means little. The spectacle exists in the falling of sand, and the cumulative nature of its current presence.
The significance of human relationships does not derive from capturing people as they once were or where they were left behind. The significance of each relationship is defined by a simple understanding of how accumulative experience contributes to the present.