Although I remember a time before the Internet, let’s be real. It doesn’t really count. Life didn’t truly begin until every facet of my existence could be uploaded for the entertainment and enjoyment of others. I’ve been blogging since I was 15. I’ve been uploading an obnoxious amount of pictures to Facebook from the moment I discovered how. My memories do not exist so much in my head as they do on my computer’s hard drive.
There are some very obvious perks to this system. For one, it eliminates those painfully long slideshows enforced by well-meaning family members. No longer are people held captive to my will–I simply upload my experiences, and the responsibility for participating in my travels is up to the viewer. They can like my status, reblog my post, or comment on my picture–or not! I’m not going to force anyone into doing something they don’t want to do. (Well, sometimes I message my closest friends “WHY HAVEN’T YOU COMMENTED ON MY PICTURE??”, but that is an exception.)
I joked earlier about my hard drive being the home of my memories, but honestly, this is extremely handy. I travel with a lot of different people, and on a couple occasions, I’ve traveled alone. Memories stay alive in the retelling, and if the people who traveled with me are not around to say, “Remember when–” then there is a good chance those memories will fade. In a sense, my photo album files and blog posts are the friends who keep me laughing and groaning as they remind me of all the dumb beautiful things that have happened to me.
A final perk (though this semi-list is by no means exhaustive), sharing your experiences online can encourage and inspire people you might never realize needed inspiring. Some people want to travel, but think they are too incompetent to manage it well. Once they read my ridiculous stories, they might realize that compared to me, they’ll do just fine. Very few people have a sense of self that is so resilient as to walk through life without the influence of others. If I can be a part of the movement that pushes a person toward stepping outside of their comfort zone into an adventure, well, sign me up.
But now, the other side of the story.
After blogging throughout high school and college, I started to feel disconnected from real life. I would see something new, or live through something funny, and immediately think, “This will make a great blog post!” I was hurrying reality, eager to get through the experience so that I could write about it.
When this happens, you’ve gone too far. If a love of blogging, Facebooking, or Instagramming inhibits your ability to live in the present moment, then…maybe take a break from social media. Practice soaking up beauty for its own sake before sharing it with others. There is a scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in which Sean O’Connell, world famous photographer, neglects to photograph the elusive snow leopard he has climbed a mountain to find. Walter asks him, “When are you going to take [the picture]?” Sean replies, “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
Our social media-saturated culture has some wonderful benefits. Celebrate it! But take time to live in the present before you live online.