It was a Thursday morning, and a little busier at my hairdressers than normal. Usually I don’t have to wait very long to get a chair but today they told me it would be a 30 to 45 minute wait.
No biggie. I had some time to spare so I sat down next to an older woman. She had short curly snow-white hair. She was wearing glasses and gave me a little smile.
I look around the place and see a cute little kid about seven or eight years old in one of the chairs.
I thought this must be short curly snow whites grandson. So I asked her and she confirmed it for me.
“He’s seven,” she said. “Name’s Trevor. We’re playing hookie from school today and having a Grandma Grandson day.”
“So cool. Breaking the rules with Grandma is the best! I remember doing that with my Grandmother a couple of times growing up back in Virginia. We usually baked or played pickle ball together. By the way I’m Justin.”
“Nice to meet you Justin. I’m Shirley.”
I couldn’t help but think what a classic Grandmother name. Shirley… classic.
“Nice to meet you young lady.” I replied back.
She laughed and smiled at me. Then pulled out her phone. For a second I thought she was going to ask me for my number. This would have been a first. Getting picked up by a 70-year-old. But hell, I’m single… why the fuck not.
She took out her phone and started playing a game. I think it was candy crush. I laughed a little in my head. For some reason I found this funny. A 70-year-old on her iPhone 7+ playing candy crush. I realize this is age shamming but seriously, think about it… sorta funny right?
I sat there looking around for about 30 seconds before instinctively reaching for the phone in my pocket. But as I touched the case with my hand I decided not to pull it out.
I scanned the room some more. There must have been ten to twelve other people in there. Different ages, ethnicities, and genders. All on their phones.
Fuck! I thought. We’re addicted to screens.
Thirty minutes or so passed and I got my haircut, not thinking much more about the interaction with Shirley or everyone being on their phones.
Fast forward to Saturday night…
The chances of finding me at a bar grabbing a drink are slim to none. But a few friends of mine wanted to get together and put back a few. I put on my big boy hat and decided to meet them. Plus, I’ve learned how to age my own whisky and have become pretty fond of an old-fashioned and whiskey sour.
The boys order beers. Some high alcohol content IPA’s I believe. I choose a whiskey sour. We’re standing with our elbows on top of a high table. Our drinks arrive and we start to chat.
Basic stuff. Work, relationships, health, sports, and recent travels and adventures. After a few good minutes of consistent back and worth there’s a lull in the conversation. Everyone takes a sip of their drink and the boys pull out their phones. I left mine in the car, something I usually do (or airplane mode) when I’m out on a date or with friends. So instead of staring at my empty palm I scan the bar room floor, not really sure what I’m looking for. Just scanning to pass the time as they check messages, email, or social media. A few of the guys Snapchat their drinks. Then Snapchat me because getting me out for drinks is basically pigs flying.
The bar is pretty busy. There are some couples on what look like dates. There’s a few groups. There’s also a few solo’s at the bar who look like they’re waiting for someone. Like at my hairdressers most of them are on their phones. Are using their phones, or have it in hand ready to draw if it goes off or needs to be checked.
My head swivels back to my boys. I notice their phones are on the table. I don’t think they did it on purpose but they’re actually arranged in a nice star like shape. It’s kinda adorable.
The conversation picks back up. Someone’s phone goes off and they check it mid conversation.
“Sorry.” Let me grab this real quick.
He shoots off a quick text reply and puts his phone back down on the table. The conversation gets going again. His phone goes off again. He picks it up and fires off another text.
As he puts his phone down another buddy picks his back up. Odds are he’s scrolling his Instagram. He’s got that whole rapid upward thumb thing going on. A dead give away.
Emails, texts, social media thumbs, and Tinder swipes would continue to make their appearance for the rest of the night.
I head home a little after midnight. A little buzzed from my whisky but happy to catch up with the boys. I had forgotten how much fun a good drink with some better people can be. I’ve got an early morning so I’m off to bed.
Fast forward to Sunday morning…
It’s a little after 7am and I’m making my way down to La Jolla, CA. If you’ve never been there it’s a must. If La Jolla was a woman it would make me weak in the knees.
I look through my unplayed podcast episodes and catch one from NPR’s Hidden Brain that looks interesting.
“Schadenfacebook:” Millions of people around the world use social media every day to stay in touch with friends and family. But ironically, studies have shown that people who spend more time on these sites feel more socially isolated than those who don’t. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore the psychological effects that social media has on us, and how FOMO — or, the fear of missing out — can lead to actually missing out.
If you’ve never listened to Hidden Brain before it’s a must. I wish I could describe Shankar Vedantam’s voice to you but I can’t.
Shankar introduces you to Rachel, a young woman who had spent a majority of her life traveling the world seeking adventure. She had recently married, settled down a bit, but was having problems in her marriage.
She talks about a recent trip her and her husband took together. A beautiful island trip. One of those trips where you drink pina coladas and margaritas all day and chill by the ocean.
Yet, she describes her trip as miserable. The two of them were arguing the entire time. Yet, that didn’t stop her from sharing pictures on social media of them drinking mimosa’s, looking like they’re having a great time. She’s living a fictional life that is curated to highlight the best of the best with absolutely no context in regards to what is really going on in her life.
This gets me thinking. Why do I use social media? Is it to market my business and coaching services? Is it to stay in touch with friends and family? Is it to share the various interests I have like photography, nature, travel, and fitness?
I’d say it’s all of the above. But as embarrassed as I am to say this it’s also for my ego, self-validation, and the tiny little dopamine hits you get to your self-esteem.
Now I’m not implying that the use of social media is a characteristic of a self-esteem problem. It all depends on how HONESTLY you view and use these platforms. Are they there to serve and promote your already existing self-esteem?Or do you use social media as a form of expression and information to advance your life’s interests?
I’m confident in saying that it’s a bit of both. Mark sums it up best in his article, “In The Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold.”
“ Social media has become bite-sized, meaningless content that you hate looking at, but for some reason you can’t look away. And because nobody has the self-control to look away, the bite-sized meaningless content spreads like wildfire, creating an online experience of a never-ending series of cultural car wrecks where we all gawk, rubberneck, discuss and/or make fun of something for 12 minutes until distracted by the next oncoming collision.
There are three common complaints against social media and the internet in general: 1) that it’s making us all narcissistic and shallow, 2) that it’s crapping on our ability to maintain meaningful relationships and therefore making us lonelier, and 3) that it’s interfering with our ability to focus and get quote, unquote “more important shit” done in our lives.
Interestingly, after quite a bit of research, it turns out that none of these claims are completely accurate. Social media doesn’t necessarily cause people to become more narcissistic, it just gives narcissistic people more opportunities to indulge their narcissism, and to a larger audience. It’s not interfering with either the closeness we feel to others or how many people we feel close to, it simply expands our network of casual acquaintances and the quantity of our casual social interactions. And while technology does present more opportunities for distraction (which we’ll get to), it also presents easier transmission of information, tools for collaboration and opportunities for organization.”
The rest of my drive continues with me debating why I use social media. Also with me wondering why I think so much.
I get to La Jolla and park near La Jolla Cove. It’s a beautiful little spot where you can watch seals, walk along small cliffs, and grab some beautiful landscape photography. That’s what I’m here for today. It’s all about the photo.
I’m snapping pic after pic like a mad man. Coastlines hear. Coastlines there. Coastlines everywhere. I start wandering further down south, making my way to Windansea Beach. One of my favorites beaches in Southern California. It’s like you’re on some sort of alien planet. There’s this cool green algae or moss (I’m not really sure) that covers the rocks and makes for a beautiful photo.
On my walk down I see a girl taking some photos too. She’s standing on the street above the cliffs taking a picture of a set of stairs.
“Good shot?” I yell up at her.
“So beautiful. Come up here and check it out.” She yells back.
I ask if she wants to get lost with me as I make my way further south. She says yes and we start our walk together. I tell her about the podcast I listened too and she said she had listened to it as well.
I ask if she plans on sharing some of the photos she gets to Instagram. She laughs and says yes. I laugh and say me too.
We keep walking a few minutes but then I stop. I don’t know if it was the beautiful day, the enjoyment of connecting with someone new, or me being a weirdo – but I pull out my phone and delete my Instagram.
Looking back it would have been super epic if I just threw it into the ocean as “Evanstar” from Lord of The Rings plays in the background. But I have one of those cool wallet cases for my phone and keep my credit cards and cash in there.
Anyhow, I got caught up in the moment. I’m with a cute girl, doing something I love, in a beautiful place. I wanted to be as present in the moment as possible.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Fuck you spiritual man! This sounds all unicorns and pixie dust to me.” You can be present and still have an Instagram.
Yeah, I know. But man, there was something about deleting it that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Now the only reasons I was in La Jolla was to take pictures for the sheer enjoyment and love of it. To go home and edit them because that’s something I like to do. Not to share them. Not to get a like. Not to show how cool my life is. Not to make someone jealous. Not to make someone happy. Not to add more followers to my account.
Nope. I was just there because I wanted to be there doing something I love to do.
Now as my good friend Todd Neach always says, “I ain’t gonna lie to ya.” As lame as this sounds, when I deleted my account my heart sorta skipped a beat.
- What about all those followers I had accumulated?
- What about all those likes and comments on photos I posted?
- What about not sharing a talent with the world anymore and getting recognition for it?
- What about the traffic it drives to my blog?
Then I realized I was being an idiot and none of those things mattered to me. I like wandering around Southern California – and the world for that matter – aimlessly looking for cool stuff to shoot.
Exploring. That matters to me.
Being outdoors. That matters to me.
Exploring and being outdoors with a cool person. That matters to me.
Exploring, being outdoors, with a cool person, taking photographs, drinking a good cup of coffee, and finishing the day with a good book in a lavender epsom salt bath… I’ve said too much… matters to me.
Now I’m not a social media hater. I actually like it for the most part. Instagram is fucking cool. Like, really fucking cool. There’s some badass photography, fitness tips, recipes, and people doing really awesome stuff out there. It’s also a great way to promote your business.
But it’s also become a distraction. People are swipping right in the gym. Taking pictures of their meal instead of enjoying it with the company sitting across from them. Scrolling walls in the middle of conversations.
It’s also become a shit ton of highlight reels. Like Rachel in the Hidden Brain Podcast.
I’ll get off my high horse now.
Will I be getting another Instagram account? Yes. I plan on posting a shit ton of California landscapes, travel photography, and the really cute stuff my future wife and kids do. But until then… I’m good without one.
PS: The irony of this is that I will most likely share it on Facebook. Or you could do it for me.