Digital Apostate - Afterword: A Plea

Fighting the tide is futile. I can flail, flap, and scream all I want, but social media isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the internet. The internet is an indelible resource, and social media, for all its ills, connects us with the world we cannot see. No, we’re keeping those things, we must – you cannot close Pandora’s box. We’ve been shown a world of quantifiable friendships, a world where we can proclaim our every thought for the world to hear, a world without faces – there’s no going back. What needs to change is our relationship with these technologies, how they fit into our lives.

            Social media has become an inextricable part of our daily existences. The trouble, as I see it, is that so many live for social media rather than with it. They go places in order to post about it online, detailing a life lived for a perceived audience of ravenous fans patiently awaiting another missive. No one is waiting for anything. No one needs to see what you’re doing at all times. Your memory is proof enough, and if that’s not enough, perhaps that’s something you need to work on. We need to alter the nature of the relationship we have with social media. What would it look like to live with social media rather than for it. To begin with, we need to forever rid ourselves of the assumption that everyone wants to hear us. That’s never been the case with anyone. To live with social media would be to treat it as nothing more than an accessory, something you use on occasion but nothing essential. Social media does seem quite indispensable for a great many people. Ask them to delete their accounts and meet serious resistance at your peril.

            The need for proof of your actions to show everyone is a strange neurosis. A strong “if others didn’t see it, it didn’t happen” mentality prevails in the minds of social media users. This is troublesome and sad. I truly empathize with the person who feels the need to post their daily mundanities in order to prove they did anything, or worse still, can’t live in the moment. Social media needs to take a backseat for us. We need a healthier sense of ourselves. Our behavior with social media belies a much bigger problem: we’re desperate to prove we exist. Social media robs us of right now, this moment. If you take a wonderful hike in order to document it for likes, you’ve missed the entire point of a hike. You’ve failed to smell the roses. We must learn to live for ourselves, not for an audience. Life is about experiences, not proof of them. This, to me, is crucial. On my deathbed, I don’t want to think back on my life and ask, “did anyone really like me?”

            Social media has its merits. It has been extremely helpful in rallying for causes, calling attention to important events, toppling corrupt regimes, telling truth to power, and uniting people. But, it’s also been helpful for neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, the Alt-Right, and the distribution of child pornography. It’s too much, and too big for us now. It’s grown out of our control. The only thing we can do is wrest ourselves from its grip, and live for the moment, for the experience, for the memories, for the love, and for the lessons learned. It sounds cliché, but it’s all we have. We’ve strayed so far from what’s good for us, for what truly feeds us. Please, I beg of you: live for yourself, live for what matters most – it’s not your followers, it’s not the number of likes. No, what matters is making memories with the people you love, seeing things with your own eyes, remembering those moments, and making new ones.

Christopher Goodlof

September 2020

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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