Real talk, I’ve judged people based on their Instas. I know—it’s terrible and it’s the actual personification of judging a book by its cover. But that’s what it’s come to…and I’m not the only one, nor is Instagram the only platform. Anytime there’s a hint of someone new coming into the office, someone begins hunting through their LinkedIn while another goes for Facebook, and someone else is digging through Twitter—all for a window into the life of someone who hasn’t even had a chance to introduce themselves.
While this behavior is not necessarily healthy, and is not the best way to kick off getting to know someone, we still do it because we’re curious. Social media has become a way to glimpse someone else’s behavior without ever having to talk to them, which works out favorably for young Millennials and Gen Z, who have grown up alongside of the rise of social media.
However, what if most of your personal adventures and accomplishments happened before the social media age? Are you doomed to a life of #tbt of, “That one time you did something interesting?” Do you need new adventures to make up for it? Are you marked as being boring just because your feed isn’t full of international travel, cultural adventures, and profound moments?
As someone who did most of their international traveling before my current thirties, I want to put the following disclaimer on my bio: “I traveled the world before social media told me where to go.” Yep, it’s just as bitter as it sounds. There’s an interesting divide happening around the social media age: those who can unfurl all the best parts of their lives on it, and those who didn’t get the opportunity.
In much the same way as there is a divide in Millennials, between those that grew up before the Internet and those that grew up alongside of it, there’s a new line in the sand—and it’s around experiences. As we culturally shift our perspective of worth from ownership to experience, social media is becoming the new “been there, done that” stamp of what someone has or has not experienced.
If you don’t think it’s a big deal—it is, to the point that Influencers and other social media fanatics are faking experiences they cannot attend, such as Coachella. The drive to share and be a part of experiential moments is such a motivating lust for some that they are willing to do whatever it takes to appear involved.
And its in that vein that this new divide lives—where people are looking at Influencers, YouTubers, and young social media users and questioning if they’re having experiences because they want to—or because the internet told them to. Again—judging the book by its cover.
The bigger picture here is that more and more often people are being exposed to a level of personal relevance and irrelevance. We see someone else’s content and it makes us feel one way or the other—and, in this case, we’re not just judging the book by the cover, we’re analyzing someone’s social media the same way we analyze their physical features. Vanity 2.0—with a hashtag.
As much as I’d like to send nastygrams to people who visit cultural heritages because they were recommended on a listicle, it won’t solve anything. Collecting experiences has become a social media phenomenon—a game of sorts, and everyone is playing, even if they don’t think they are. Don’t hate the player, hate the game—or just set your profiles to private.