It’s funny how the digital world connects us, but makes us feel incredibly lonely at the same time. This juxtaposition has been nabbing at me and getting my attention these days, as I live in the grand technologically connected city of Seoul, with incredibly high-speed 4G LTE wifi almost everywhere, and where most everyone on the bus, subway, streets, and classrooms are looking down on their brightly lit mobile phone screens fully absorbed in the digital lives of others.
It’s fascinating that this generation is exposed to so much instantly-gratified routines like constant messaging back and forth on Kakao Talk, or checking and uploading clips on Snapchat, and running through all the Instagram notifications of crisp and clean, filtered, hipstered-out photo of coffee cups and blank walls. So interesting how this generation has been so online-focused, and rightly so, as globalization and international markets strive to connect and compete with one another by bridging gaps through virtual data and reports. This information generation has been so exposed to who knows what, and the access to other people’s lives, selfies, blogs, travels, political thoughts, and various opinions has surfaced on the web and shared by countless users per day.
It’s crazy to think even 20 years ago, the dot.com invention did not exist nor permeate through society as it does now.
Why am I bringing this up?
Because I find that all lot of young people (including myself) are finding their sense of worth, importance, and identity on the web. More importantly, we are finding our sense of significance by how many followers we have, how many responses we get, and how many “likes” we obtain on a post or photo. God bless the people who really don’t think this way or use social platforms as obsessively to gain a sense of approval, but God also bless those who are bombarded with insecurity and fears as they see their post go unnoticed.
I think it’s something people don’t like to talk about or admit to, because frankly speaking it is very silly and outrageous to feel less important or valuable because people missed or didn’t give attention to your post, but I think our freedom of expression, thoughts, and feelings are spoken through these platforms and with the sense of vulnerability we feel robbed of significance if no one seems to care.
However, I do believe this is pandemic more in certain regions, and now that I am back in Seoul, South Korea, the hub of technology and quick everything, I find myself also being on my phone often and checking social media (aka only Facebook because I deleted Instagram) a lot more frequently and with a lot more detail and a lot more judgment and insecurity than I did when I was living in Italy and traveling all throughout Europe. Europeans don’t find that much of their sense of worth online because they are not really online. Yes they are available online but they tend to take social media lightly and engage in normal everyday activities with much love and energy. At least the Italians and those living in Italy. They prefer to be more relaxed, laid back, and incredibly relational and welcoming to foreigners and interested about each individual and what they like and desire. Even in Austria I found so many happy others-focused authentic lifestyles that were fully there in the present.
In Korea and Eastern Asia, I find more rigid walls, rules of respect, lack of vulnerability, and a whole lot of judgment. I’m sorry if I sound like I am generalizing but I think people who have experienced cross cultural lifestyles and lived in 3 different continents (like myself) are allowed to acknowledge the stark differences and give perspective to others. Throughout it all I’ve found that relationships and authenticity are the most important. And I’m not talking about romantic relationships (which are also important) but friendships and people who you do life with.
These people should make your lives full of joy, fun, laughter, depth, and stick with you through the tough times and the good times. Your sense of worth and approval and significance should come from God and also backed up by these appreciative loving present people. They should make you feel alive and you should forget that you need to prove yourself online because you are too busy living joyfully and richly in the unplugged world. This is not to say taking photos or videos are bad, I myself am an avid documentarist of everything as a photographer and videographer because I find these moments so precious and fleeting. However, the need to be seen and liked by the digital community and approved of should not be the reason for posts.
I think it happens to the best of all of us at times, some more than others, but in the end I say this to examine your real life. Do they reflect what you post up and more? Does your everyday life feel more abundant and joyful and deeply connected than your social media posts seem? Or are they but a fleeting non-authentic moment created just for the photo and unsuspecting audience? Does everything come out of s place of abundance and overflow of your real life? Or is it all made up on the spot to feature a life you really don’t have?