“Social Media is ruining our lives”, “We shouldn’t be eating that processed crap”, “No one knows how to drive anymore”, “Kids spend too much time on video games” & Other Common Grievances

This morning, I turned on my radio to hear the announcer telling (what she thought) was a revolutionary idea about going on a social media hiatus for a week while on vacation, and the kind of insights it brought her.

It is true that we live in a society where completely disengaging from social media (while possible) limits our interactions with the world–we miss out on event invites, we don’t know what’s #trending in social circles so we are left out of conversations at work, and most importantly, we don’t know when people just popped out a cute baby (or acquired a cute puppy).

But, we’ve been having these conversations about the negative impacts of social media for at least ten years. We’ve talked about the negative effects on attention spans in the classroom. We’ve discussed the distancing of relationships with our families and how social media produces low self esteem. We know that checking our phone releases chemicals in our brains, much like drug addicts experience, and heck, we’ve probably tried several social media hiatus’ in our lives, and can stand to say that all of these negative effects are true.

None of this information is new to us. We’ve all read, heard, discussed, experienced it over and over again, and yet, here we are–still talking about it, still ruminating about the same negative impacts, and still using social media in the same ways…

Of course, this is not just a social media thing–this happens in other venues as well, like our diets and food supply. For probably longer than we’ve talked about the negative effects of social media, we’ve also been talking about the harmful effects of processed sugar, hormone-fed beef, unnaturally colored fruits and vegetables. We know that cheese that doesn’t require refrigeration and that comes out of a plastic nozzle can’t be the real stuff, we are aware that soda has been scientifically proven to corrode the copper off a penny, and we recognize that whatever we find in a McDonald’s hamburger can’t be of natural flavor (and that real chicken nuggets probably should not bounce…). We discuss this information with our friends, we see cookbooks and diet books at the stores that condemn this kind of eating, and we share healthy eating posts and recipes on our social medias; none of this information about America reaching obesity epidemics, about processed food causing colon cancer, about the dangers of artificial flavors in our foods is news to us. We know this information. And yet, every time I drive by a McDonald’s or a Taco Bell, there is always a line. And, anytime there is a sale on Nacho Cheese Doritos and Chips Ahoy cookies at King Soopers, the supply only lasts a short period of time.

We hear this as the Millennials and Generation Z enter the workforce: “No one has any work ethic anymore.” People complain about the entitlement attitudes, about how “not everyone deserves a trophy”, and that, “helicopter parents have ruined an entire generation”.

We say this with so many other things: “everyone drives like an idiot these days”, “no one has any morals”, “kids spend too much time on their video games”, “no one know how to pick up their trash anymore”, “the housing market is too crazy”, “these damn politicians can’t get anything done”…

And then, we keep posting stuff on social media, we buy five bags of Doritos because they are on sale, we neglect to use our own blinkers and cut that car off, we ghost that guy who we totally led on, we give our kids their video games back when they throw a temper tantrum, we knowingly leave our free popcorn bags on the lawn after the fireworks show, we throw in a bid way over asking price into that crazy housing market, and we continue to vote for those damn politicians.

We KNOW all of these things are problems, we TALK about all of these things being problems, and yet, we don’t do anything about them being problems.

Sometimes, I think part of this endless, perpetual, unproductive cycle comes from an inability to look at ourselves from a bystander’s perspective–it’s really an innocent fault of our own–we don’t mean it, and we can’t help it. Because we can really only see the world out of our own two eyes, we often have a narrow view of our worlds (this is why we can only have sympathy for people who have undergone a similar experience as ourselves–we can only have empathy, or “feel bad”, for situations we have not undergone), and it is not until we find ourselves outside of a situation that we can fully see the impact. We may see our friend posting a billion pictures a day on social media, but since we are only posting five, we don’t see ourselves as having a problem. We may watch someone else ordering four double stacks off the menu, but since we are only going for a small French fry, we don’t consider ourselves ‘unhealthy eaters’. We may think that this road must not require blinkers, so since everyone else is cutting everyone off, it must just be a norm. We may notice that our friends’ kids are spending way too much time on video games, but since ours only spend 5 hours on Saturdays, we totally aren’t perpetuating that bad behavior. It must be the fault of everyone else, right? We are totally absent from the problem.

….my social media posts aren’t perpetuating other people from spending too much time, mindlessly scrolling (especially when those posts are full of juicy gossip); bringing fried chicken, Velveeta shells, and Fanta over to my friend’s house for dinner is not promoting unhealthy eating habits; I’m a good driver, so it must be all the other idiots out there causing problems; my kids only get to play their video games while they are unwinding from a stressful school day; none of the Millennials or Generation Z’s know how to work, so I’ll stop working too; I’m going to ‘accidentally’ toss my garbage out the window (or, it ‘accidentally’ got sucked out by a wind tunnel)…

….how does that song go? “Society got 99 problems, but I ain’t responsible for 1″…

(featured image from Modern Family: Unplugged)

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