Digging Deeper into Social Media

A heavy preoccupation with social media. It is real. At least for me.

I think a lot about the firm grip that social media has on our days, an idea that has occupied many of my thoughts and conversations since spending my JV year in a house with no WiFi and, more recently, working for a state park where the WiFi access was equally as limited.

Despite my awareness of it and its gripping mechanisms, I, too, love social media. I indulge in Facebook when I can. On a good day, I love knowing what friends near and far are up to. On a bad day, it’s a black hole where too many of my hours are spent staring at a screen and don’t feel mindfully spent.

Recently, my sister was showing me a Snapchat story of a friend of mine who lives about a 15 minute drive away. I found it odd that I was watching my friend on a five inch screen when the real person, my dear friend, was a quick drive away where I could watch her make funny faces in real life, in real time. 

I thought about stopping by my friend’s apartment for a spontaneous visit. But then I remembered that I needed gas, it was late and getting dark, I was tired, and the list of excuses goes on.

It got me thinking about how much I missed living in an intentional community, how much I missed being able to witness the goofy moments my friends post on their respective social media sites in real time. 

It got me re-thinking about the social media obsessed life we all swim through. Maybe outside of the algorithms that make it hard to stop scrolling or the convenience of a smartphone, maybe we’re also just living in a world full of limited options for community. It’s easier to keep up with people with the convenience of my phone, so often we live far from one another even in the same city, work different hours than friends, and again, the list goes on.

Maybe behind our “obsession” with social media is really just an “obsession” with the human community. I don’t know if that thought is too much of an optimistic stretch, but, for my own sake, I’m choosing to let the thought have some weight.  

Perhaps we’re living in a time of obsession with content but the time will come when we recognize what’s beyond the content: a genuine interest for being and spending time with one another, for knowing more about our neighbors and friends, in real life, in real time.

Social media provides a quick outlet for a feeling of community in cities and lifestyles that make community a value that’s difficult to prioritize. It makes me wonder what other creative alternatives for community, outside of social media, can exist. Social media is just one “form” of community — what else could community look like?

Featured image by Meghann Van Pelt

About Meghann Van Pelt

Meghann is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and has been fortunate to call many places home over the past few years. She graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in sociology and has spent the years since then traveling by foot and bicycle, embracing her JV year in Portland, OR serving at Street Roots, the weekly street newspaper, and is currently working at a homeless services nonprofit in St. Louis but will likely be calling the road "home" again soon (there's just so much to explore!). She is an enthusiastic Yerba mate drinker and will go on a long stroll or hike at the drop of a hat.