116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Like many other Gen Zers born in the late 1990’s, I’ve lived so long in social media ubiquity that it’s essentially an unconscious preset in my mind to view every situation with some post potential. Is there something morally questionable about this? Where should the line be drawn?
The CDC cites that kids ages 8-18 spend, on average, 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day. My own screen time typically runs between 5-7 hours a day. Moral and techno panic articles about children and teens using social media have been quite popular lately, fairly representing the worry that millennial parents have with their children’s social media use. A lawmaker in Texas has even proposed banning children outright from such platforms. Children are just younger, smaller people, if we are so worried about their internet exposure, we should be proportionally more worried about our own online interactions as adults.
Sitting in mass, listening to my priest give a lesson on the Bible passages for that day, my mind naturally wanders a bit and I have the passive thought of posting a story of the stained glass window with an inspiring Bible quote that he just said. That’s not clearly a bad or sinful thought, but I was pretty startled because the priest's homily was about how we should (and I’m paraphrasing) focus on God rather than our own egos via service to others to avoid sin and personal stress. Stepping back from that religious perspective, are we losing something uniquely good about being fully present in a moment or experience because of this posting potential?
Cooking dinner with my friends last night resulted in an adorable Instagram boomerang of us stirring pasta sauce. It was super cute, and quick to post, maybe taking 2 minutes from composition to publication. It didn’t feel like a drain on the situation, if anything, I wanted to capture the sweet memory together and hold onto it for a little bit longer. Is there something corrupting about making our community dinner about my own performance of fun and friendship by posting to social media? Am I losing the unique goodness of doing something for the sake of personal satisfaction between me and my friends where the only social advancement and satisfaction we enjoy exists between one another?
A nice dinner out, with people of any age, almost necessitates a group photo or a snap of the food served at dinner. If phones don’t come out at any point during a special evening, it’s probably because of some prior agreement to “put down the phones.” Our wider network of vague acquaintances and friends online is the specter with us at every notable meal and life event.
During the advent of the camera, casual photography, and even books, every generation has had similar concerns about losing touch with the present by engaging in abstracting activities. There is something markedly different today about social media. Whereas physical photos are much more inconvenient to encounter and the “nose always in a book” paranoia didn’t amount to any major cultural breakdowns, social media stories, posts and videos can permeate every second of our lives and impact normal habits and thought processes. Banning children from making social networking profiles won't solve the wider cultural phenomena of preformative posting and online presence but thoughtful reflection and consideration of real presence are helpful antidotes that we people of all ages can learn and employ.
Patricia Patnode is a Waterloo native, Loras College graduate and can be found on Twitter at @IdealPatricia