A 4-inch Screen is Too Small for Life

 artist: Pawel Kuczynski
artist: Pawel Kuczynski

A lot of people talk to me about my relationship with social networks, so let’s talk about my relationship with social networks… I hate them. Okay, maybe ‘hate’ is too strong of a word to reflect how I feel about them, and they can be helpful in organizing an event or sharing this blog post, but I definitely don’t appreciate the idea of engaging in ”life” through a 4-inch screen. You can call me old-fashioned but I prefer to see my friends and family in person, and hear from them about what’s new in their lives instead of reading about it while lying in my bed. Don’t get me wrong; I like to read, but interpersonal communication is more than the sum of its parts and the facial expressions, gestures and the tone people use in person are as important as the words they use to express themselves. And I know that in the realm of social networks ‘emojis’ tend to be a substitute for our real emotions, but I’ve never seen a friend crying a waterfall while laughing, so their accuracy and truthfulness is questionable.

What bothers me about this new culture is that everyone expects you to jump on every social network bandwagon. Personally, I’d like to think of my use of social networks as an add-on to my social life rather than a foundation for it. Therefore, if I don’t feel that sending or posting a ‘selfie’ for every person I’ve met in my life to see is enriching my social experiences, I am not going to do it. All I’m saying is, just because there is something available for everyone doesn’t mean that you have to do it.

For me, the problem isn’t actually with the concept of sharing, but in prioritizing the sharing of an experience over the experience itself. Therefore, you’ll find that people pay serious money to go to a concert, only to watch the whole thing through the screens of their phones, or take hundreds of #sunset pictures to find the one that shows how majestic their experience is. It also feels like each one of us has a different image of him or herself that we want to uncover and maintain, and we need everyone else to be the audience that validates this auto-corrected and filtered image by liking it, commenting on it, and if you’re lucky to have true fans, sharing it. This also goes for our sad moments. We try to banish them by keeping ourselves busy with the reproductions of our lives, or our digital selves if you wish, on every social media platform we use.

This computer-coded culture restricts us from fully experiencing our emotions because being connected to people all the time takes away our ability to take a step back and reflect on our existence. Instead, we prefer to take breaks from our emotions and feelings in order to share something with someone, or everyone, only to get their feedback on how good or bad is the thing we are experiencing. Therefore, people rarely realize how heavenly a sunset can be or how stimulating the music at a concert is.

So whenever you feel like you have to post “I’m living in the moment” or any post that’s about your present, don’t! Instead, put your phone away, or better yet, turn it off; and contemplate this present. Whether it’s sad or happy doesn’t really matter because you wouldn’t truly experience one without truly experiencing the other. The comedian Louis C.K. once said: “Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments.” So don’t be afraid of the emotions that fill your existence. Life is full of beautiful catalysts that create those emotions, but a 4-inch screen is too small to capture them all.

Mohammad Alqudah is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.

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