On today’s episode of The Mugly Truth, we talk (well, Kris kind of rants actually) about the effects of social media on adults, teens and kids. See, being products of 70’s and 80’s we remember life without instant answers, not knowing when a message is received, and having a small circle of friends vs 5,000. Back then, we had to go to the library, or crack open an encyclopedia (which was so expensive to boot!), or ask mom and dad for the answer to our questions (and hope they knew). To connect with friends we had to dial a landline (God help you if you had a rotary dial still) and then hope they were home…letting it ring and ring and ring ad nauseum – that is until the magic of the answering machine became a household game-changer around 1984. We’d pass paper notes in class and hope the teacher wouldn’t catch them mid-transmission and worst luck…read them out loud.
If we couldn’t hang out after school, we would make plans to watch MTV at the same time and then talk on the phone for hours as we watched and sang along with our favorite band’s latest videos. Woe to the poor person trying to reach our parents. They would just have to keep trying or give up in frustration from the incessant buzz of the busy signal since call waiting was still pretty newfangled. We personally didn’t have home computers as kids (though others did), hell, we were still marveling over the concept of using a cable box and recording movies on a Vee-Cee-Arr. The closest thing we got to instant photos was using a Polaroid camera, mix tapes were literally recorded from the radio or a record player using a cassette tape recorder, and we listened to those sweet jams later on our Sony Walkmans. We could sit for hours in a quiet corner to read a book for the fiftieth time, but we would have to wait a month for the latest celebrity gossip, makeup tips and photos of our boy-band crushes to be revealed in our teen magazines like Tiger Beat, Seventeen and Bop. Once we started driving, we had a Thomas Brothers map thrown into the back of the car somewhere…usually on the floor behind the passenger seat. And if our car broke down? We’d better have enough change to call Dad (or Automobile Club) from a payphone.
Nowadays…it’s all literally at our fingertips. Knowledge, fellowship, support, photos of loved ones, status updates…face-to-face video chatting just like we watched on Star Trek and Star Wars! It’s all just hanging out in our back pocket, purse or desktop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s there next to us as we sleep, ready to wake us up for work and then perched somewhere nearby feeding us amazing podcasts (ahem), audiobooks and playlists to get us through our daily grind. We’ve seen the rise of YouTube where anyone can be a worldwide “tv” star in a show of one’s own making. When you’re tired of watching your millionth tutorial, you can binge a favorite blast from the past or latest sensation (and Kris does) whenever and wherever you want – depending on how much money you want to shell out for any combination of Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and a la carte cable channel apps. We can watch our favorite movie or tv show or sporting event sitting on a bus heading to work. And if we forget the name of that actor in that movie? Google’s got it.
Want to know how long it will take to drive from point A to point B IN ANOTHER COUNTRY? We can look that up in less than a minute. Want to watch your kid drive from point A to point B on a Saturday night next town over? There’s an app somewhere that can help you do that (Black Mirror, anyone)? Speaking of family and friends…it’s amazing how we can see what our loved ones are doing and feeling and who they’re with, even what they’re eating. Whatever they want to share, we can share with them (if their settings allow) in almost real time. Admittedly, this is sometimes to the detriment of our stomach contents (photos of severed fingers and surgery sutures and compound fractures are disgusting…please stop. Please. JUST. STAHP.) If our significant other doesn’t answer the phone, we can leave a voicemail and then send a text to cover the bases. But God forbid we get left unread. Them’s the biggest fightin’ words never spoken or typed.
Chances are unless you are someone who completely lives off the grid (though doubtful since you’re reading this), you have experienced a level of connection like all or some of what we’ve described. You may also have experienced the frustration of the quagmire of political rants clogging your news feeds. Your blood pressure may have risen once or twice (a day or hour) just reading comments from trolls in another clickbait article. Have you ever gotten so riled about a posted story your friend says is true only to discover, thanks to sites like Snopes.com, that the story was literally crap? Yeah. Us too. We have gotten so wrapped up in this miraculous link to the world that we are getting trapped in the FOMO phenomenon (fear of missing out), sometimes absent-mindedly picking up our phone and checking Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat a couple minutes after swiping the apps shut. We try to put the phones away when friends and family sit in front of us, but inevitably we sneak a peek to check What’s App. Or we whip it out to snap that delightful dinner. Or answer that damned question, “WHO was that actor???”
We talk about the good and the bad of social media in this episode…like we said, we love and hate the internet. But mostly we can’t picture living without this connection we have (now that we’ve had it), and we look forward to future technology that will make it even better. We just can’t lose sight of the real world around us. We cannot compare ourselves to the perfection we see on Instagram. We must continue to always understand what we read on a screen is what people present to us to be seen. Like the old saying our folks imparted to us all those years ago, before all this began, “don’t believe everything you read” Oh…and, “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” Mom and dad told us a lot of great stuff.
Remembering this will remind us that the most beautiful, lovely, wonderful things we could possible experience are the eyes of our loved ones, the sound of their laughter…the clouds and sun and fresh air of a perfectly normal day while birds fly across the sky and dogs bark at us from the other side of a fence. We know…sounds like a bunch of sappy crap. Well, maybe Ernest Cline said it better:
“That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
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