Who do we follow online? Who’s baby picture is that? How did you come about following this person?
Did they once write a tweet that made us chuckle? Did they retweet an insightful comment? Did once we work together?
I click the Follow button to ease my concern of missing out. I love to laugh and don’t want to miss out on the next great joke. It gives me a feeling of purpose when I know people have read and retweeted my words. It would be rude not to at least pretend to pay attention to that old school friend.
I rarely consider the cost of that one click.
Like most people, I start and end my day in bed, looking at my phone. It’s my alarm clock, my telephone, my camera… my connection to the outside world.
Without even putting on my slippers and heading outside to grab the paper I can catch up with what happened in the world while I was asleep. I start the day with traditional news outlets – catching up on the latest natural disasters and political scandals; before moving right through to the latest gossip and the thoughts of strangers, all while I wait for the coffee to brew.
As I followed more and more people, I noticed that it was taking me longer and longer to read everything. It went from 5 unread items, to 50, and before I knew it, 300+.
Yet I persist.
That slight OCD that we all have to get that red bubble to disappear.
The people we follow tends to reflect our interests as a person. Maybe we look up to them, or like their work, or want to be successful like them. Maybe, we even know this person in real life.
We don’t want to miss out on these “great tweets”, 140 characters that might contain the idea we have been searching for. The meaning of life or the key to our happiness could be just 20 words away. And so every morning, half-asleep, we read. And we are in this in-between state, where we aren’t asleep and we’re not fully awake and our defenses are down.
Whoever they are, we get an intimate look into their life and this intimacy creates a sense of acquaintance that might not actually exist. We see their successes (but rarely their failures). Maybe they raised a million dollars. Or went backpacking through Europe. They bought a house. Snapped a selfie with Derek Jeter in a Shake Shack.
Instead of being happy for them, we wonder. Why wasn’t that us? What are we doing wrong? Did I miss that day of school when we learnt how to do these things? Even if we don’t want to start a business or travel Europe, we feel an urge to at least match their achievements. I never wanted to meet a Yankee player before, but now that @NYCYankee36291 has, I feel like I should.
Our sense of normal gets heavily skewed by all of this noise and the worst part is that we invite it in to our beds.
Over time, this noise makes it difficult to distinguish these stranger’s thoughts from our own. Do we really believe what we just said? Or are we just repeating a stranger’s tweet?
The damage doesn’t have to be permanent. Reducing the noise in your life will make it much simpler. We are like a moth to a flame. Noise is a new bright light pulling us in every different direction. Reduce the noise and the right flame will reveal itself.Permalink