Sunday, August 28, 2016

Social Media and its discontents

I was in Lake Tahoe last week for a week. It was gorgeous.  I rarely, if ever, have taken a "vacation" in my life - a trip for the express purpose of going somewhere I've never been and relaxing.  Relaxing is a task to me. I'm not the best at it. I find when I look for comfort, I seem to only notice what's uncomfortable. It usually has to come upon me unawares.

I did relax, though, which included a little beach time, safe under an umbrella and lots of sunscreen; a Steve Miller band concert (who ever thought that would happen?); a trip to Vikingsholm in Emerald Bay; and a trip to Nevada City to visit a friend and a short hike in the Yuba River.

Beautiful, huh?  I hiked up stream by myself and waded in water with the fish. Those boulders, by the way, are huge. I spent a lot of my time alone, which was good, but I also noticed this way in which social media has changed the way I experience things. I had a compulsion to document. I took pictures, posted them on Facebook. I instagrammed. Even when I was swatting away bees overlooking Emerald Bay, I took a picture. 

And it is gorgeous, as you can see, so there's nothing wrong with that.  But I noticed this odd compulsion to stay constantly connected that somehow stands in the way of something deeper.  I had brought with me Zadie Smith's book Changing My Mind, a collection of essays I'd been meaning to read for a while. Like since 2009 when it came out. Better late than never.  The essays are wonderful, and a form I really respond to. Her essay on Middlemarch brought tears to my eyes. I even wrote her a fan letter. What I've noticed, though, is that this immediate connection, which also brings immediate emotions - happiness, outrage, anger, adrenaline - somehow stops the thought and more complicated feelings that comes when there is a deeper contemplation.  Perhaps even this half-baked blog post is a symptom.  I've been aware, though, that when I have an idea or something I want to explore, I'll move over to social media - either to share it before it is something deeper, or to just check something out and the idea melts away. I've noticed that joy comes out of contentment, and that takes time.  Sharing is something I love to do, but share connotes a giving and a receiving.  Posting makes more sense for what happens on social media, an activity that is much like stapling a notice for a missing animal on a light post.

Don't get me wrong - I enjoy social media, but it does not provide me with a sense of connection in the same way that actual connection does. That's probably why people feel more depressed the more time they spend on it (just Google 'social media and depression). A friend once said social media is like having a conversation at a cocktail party when someone randomly walks by and shouts "I love pickles!" and leaves.  More aptly, perhaps, it's a giant room of people screaming their love for particular pickles.  The absurdists would have a field day.

I do actually enjoy social media, but like any tool I have to figure out the best way to use it. Sometimes, when it's immediate reaction and response, it impedes a deeper response.  I think that bay is instructive. Even looking at it now is calming. Sometimes to get the bigger picture takes a longer hike. I drove 7 1/2 hours to get up there.  I hiked down a mile to Vikingsholm, the 38 room mansion built on the shore of the bay in the late twenties, and back up a mile. It was quite a steep walk, with panting dogs and complaining children being encouraged by their parents to keep walking. I was glad I went to see the house. I was sore the next day. Nothing about it was immediate, but I felt glad to have taken the time. There is no substitute for time and experience. I'm encouraging myself to go a little deeper.


Sherri's Of Palm Springs said...

Hi, I love your beautiful images, Water. creeks, rivers ..all are my favorites, Your writings are interesting, but I have to go now..
happy day

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