Words by Jess Mackay
For hundreds of years, the proverbial tree that fell in the forest without a sound has raised the conundrum of whether an action is considered an action if people are not present to interpret it. Is that sound of a tree falling only something within human experience and does it still happen when we are not around? If there is no way to establish that there was a sound – does it even matter?
Like the proverbial tree that fell in the forest, social media has now raised the same, albeit less philosophical, question of: if we don’t post our experiences online for everyone to see, did they happen?
This obsession with validating the perfect grade, the first date, the hilarious drunken photo of the unsuspecting and potentially ex-best friend (guilty as charged) has caused these moments to become less fulfilling than if we had kept them to ourselves and out of cyberspace.
Don’t get me wrong – I am also a victim of shamelessly posting only the most ‘upload worthy’ moments of my life and being much less willing to share the fact that last Saturday night I was the first known human to discover the artery clogging combination of crunchy peanut butter wrapped in Nutella whilst home alone watching The Bachelor.
Revolutionary dessert inventions aside, are we posting the perfect bikini photo on Instagram out of appreciation for summer or for the appreciation of our body based on how many likes and comments it can get? Is the check-in to an exotic locale on Facebook for our devotion to travel or the jealousy of people at home? (I will admit, this one is somewhat justified).
This obsession is not entirely our fault, scientists have proven that the digital age, in particular social media, is causing change in the part of the brain responsible for decision making and self-control (finally! An explanation to the enigma of the drunken selfie upload). However instead of being treated for our addiction, we are now developing FOMO (fear of missing out): the anxiety of being excluded from social media (it’s real, I googled it and yes I understand the irony in that).
The original phrase ‘if a tree falls’ is symbolic of the ineffectiveness of unseen actions or unheard thoughts. Has this thought now transcended to how we are tweeting, blogging and uploading our way through our lives?
The ability to preserve our favourite moments in blissful digital nostalgia is a more practical way to store our memories than the embarrassing and slightly uncomfortable moment when the family albums that you tried to throw into that black hole are found by your Mum and threatened to be passed around at your 21st birthday, not excluding those of you naked in public places (great decision, thanks Mum).
However, if we have the ability to take hundreds of shots of the same moment, have we in fact missed that moment all together? Are we losing the colours of a sunset, the butterflies of a third date and our favourite song performed live in concert by focusing on our newsfeeds rather than what is right in front of us?
It certainly raises the question: if no-one posts, tags or uploads you – did it even happen? Are we ever satisfied, now that we can record our memories and send them into cyber space, to simply live in the moment? I mean if you don’t post it, how will anyone ever know that you did it?
This addiction to a digital life is now officially being considered the online equivalent of taking a mind altering substance. The phenomenon that is altering my mind, is why we can’t justify a moment in our lives without uploading it first.
So to all young adults: to be honest, that’s ageist, yesterday on the train I saw a Grandmother Instagram her suitcases and then hash tag ‘Brisbanelife’.
On a serious note, maybe it’s time for everyone to post and upload only the moments we want to remember fifty years from now rather than the moments we worry might not count if no-one ‘likes’ them. Our memories will be no less amazing, satisfying or successful if we revert to ancient tradition and ‘update’ people in real #Brisbanelife.