Don't Fear Banality - It's Only Human
An opinion piece that speaks to social media's tendency to define reality within the confines of an Instagram post; instead of taking the best moments of one's day as representation of their lifestyle, Charles Schnell, a member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, argues that we should instead embrace the mundane as a reminder that we are all human, regardless of follower count.
I joined the Log Off Movement for one reason in this tumultuous year: In opposition to the virulent, addictive effects of social media. I write this article with no judgement whatsoever. I write purely from a place of genuine care for my brothers and sisters. I wish to see as many of us, including myself who is no less prone to screen addiction than the most addicted person, carry forth our world to peace in the coming decades. While social media by itself may not be harmful, the effects it can and does have all too often will disrupt this work towards peace and love.
Social media, as I’ve observed through personal experiences and hearsay, has numerous negative effects on our culture and behavior. One of the most prevalent is over-attachment to phones. In the NY Times article “You Love Your iPhone. Literally.”, Martin Lindstrom reports on an experiment he helped conduct studying people’s relationships with their phones. He writes that, when hearing the sound of their phone, they responded “as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.”
This article was published nine years ago. With the advances in functionality and utility, I imagine this compassion people have for their phones has only increased. And, it makes sense, doesn’t it? This small companion of yours is to the effect of a genius. It can tell you anything you want to know when you want to know it. It can play any song you want to hear when you want to hear it. It can entertain you when you so desire. And, it’s small enough to take with you wherever you go. More than anything, it is one of the premier methods of communication. Your phone, in a sense, is consistently an instant digital pathway to your family members and friends. I would argue that this supposed love for phones partly comes from the collective love you have for many. And, once you’ve checked in on the ones you love, you can start checking in on those not so near or dear through social media.
I asked someone close to me if they think social media affects our culture in any way, and how so. Their response: “Yes, because people can—like depending on what happens—people compare themselves negatively to others or lose hope in our society. And also, can get bullied online, which ruins mental health.” I agree. Part of the reason why I think social media is effective at altering moods is because of what people put into it (their posts) and what they experience on the consumer side (posts by other people). Most people make a post on Facebook or Instagram when it’s to commemorate an occasion that makes them happy; it could be a celebration, a vacation, or a day of relaxation. They build their online identity using these bricks of happiness. What happens when you go to their account? You run into their brick wall. You see only the highlights of everyone else’s lives. Like yours, everyone’s life is built in bricks of excitement and of banality. When you look at your friend’s Instagram page, nothing is easier than to forget the latter. On the internet, most people lack banality by design. There’s no reason to post about the mundane, so people don’t. And, when no one is, it’s easy to falsely sense that everyone’s life is unrealistically awesome, much more so than your own in whatever banal moment you happen to be looking at social media. (No one is on their phones when they’re having fun!)
This emotional effect is one of the most powerful methods social media utilizes to have users grow attached to it. Through this, social media becomes the main way people, especially teenagers, learn about people they have or have not met in real life. They can spend their free time looking at other people’s lives. In effect it can act as a human relationship, and when the relationship brings about self-comparison, it cannot be a good bond.
To conquer this harmful relationship with phones, we must simply recognize the tricks social media, especially in abundance, can play on the brain in order to distort reality and make it seem like banality is abnormal. Life is full of boring moments, and your life is only enhanced by them because it makes the exciting moments more enjoyable in comparison. It is important to remember that no one’s life is the picture made on social media. Don’t fear banality, and realize we all have moments of it, and we’re better off with those moments. Please put the phone down and realize there’s more to life than the selective portraits painted on extrinsic canvases of fiction.
Lindstrom, M. (2011, October 01). You Love Your iPhone. Literally. Retrieved October 01, 2020.