Social media is a world where everyone tries to out self-promote each other and in doing so, stretch their lives further from reality.
Even the destinations — whether it be a restaurant, hotel resort, or kayaking trip — want to make their experiences more Instagrammable.
Sharing has commoditized life, turning us into an avalanche of rotating ads, blurring the lines between paid and organic. Every post is anad in some way, shape, or form. Like TV, we start to develop an imaginary relationship with those on screen, doubtful we'd ever met in real life.
The blizzard of images droughts perception with seeing. We feel envious of those in our feed before we know why we may feel so. The contagion of jealousy spreads like a virus. The upshot is a homogenization of lives and content.
We all want what we don't have. Social media generates a false narrative of unnecessary desire. Instagrams are just pictures on a wall, temporarily surfing over the hopes and fears in our genes. It feels good lying stuck in the ludic loop.
But irreality is ephemeral. The long-term narrative eventually wakes us up to the fact that we're barking up the wrong tree. Life is here and now, attracting itself and trying to love you back.
People like to gravitate toward solutions. They'd rather think they know something than cope with all the anxiety surrounding the mysterious present.
Truth is a mental implantation. In reality, we just believe the story we tell ourselves. Conversely, thinking is a ‘dialogue between the two me's.'
The curious mind acts like inserting graphite into a pencil through two layers of wood. As they say, genius is one brain with two schools of thought.
Paradoxes are the upshot of freedom. We should feel free to contradict ourselves on a regular basis if it means the latest solution is indeed superior.
In search of the latest best, we triumph over the matter of what's trending while clinging to what works.
Popular thought can be deceiving. A constant repetition of simple ideas warps new perspectives and new tools. While the mainstream excels in dulling cognition, it is the wise that need no further telescope.
Twitter's removal of millions of fake accounts reminds us that not everything is what it seems. The internet is full of bots, replicating humans, even programmed to act more human than the humans themselves.
We too are conscious automata, no more authentic than the droids themselves. People are just savvy editors. We present our best selves online to increase our self-worth make other people envious.
Artifice defeats authenticity in all chess matches of the irreality we crave.
Yet, the push to be at our best could be the resolution to our proposed mediocrity. Why shoot ourselves down when a quasi-celebrity lifestyle sits at our fingertips.
Fame happens to the mobile holder. Stuck in a ludic loop, we are the host of our own Truman Show. Attention captured, republished, and released. We're neither superior to bots nor are we consciously behind.
The brain is an empty void. It waits to remember until we give things meaning. Otherwise, it clings to the instincts of the amagdyla for its main sensory perception.
Thankfully, our brains are large processors. It knows that survival depends on exchanging information with others. Information is quid pro quo.
But the problem with oral communication is all the selling. Through rhetoric and persuasion, one can rise to have incredible influence. This is, unfortunately, how we got the Kardashians. We make stupid people famous.
Modern life narrows down our perceptions. Praising others, let alone mimicking them, makes us blind to our own self-worth.
The thrill of knowing is internal. It reminds us that we are more interesting than the role society gives us. Nothing means anything if we can't float with nature and find the question.
If humans didn't have an amygdala — the two tiny almond-shaped nuclei in the temporal lobes of the brain — we wouldn't have any fear. We wouldn't know how to process risk, thereby letting us go hug a bear or climb the highest cliff.
But we do feel fear and in most cases, we're smart enough to run away or not do anything as a survival tactic. The problem becomes though when fear has us running away from the very things we wish to accomplish.
As they say, do something enough and the fear dissipates. The habit of practicing public speaking reduces presentation anxiety. Shooting hoops every day will make you more confident at the free throw line come game time.
The obstacle is the way
Risk-taking helps develop courage which helps engender competence. We shouldn't ever feel fear, but we should be able to manage its impact.
In doing anything more and more, whether it's through risk-taking, practice, or visualization, we can dull the senses. We can take things on without thinking about them or second-guessing ourselves.
According to Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor's book [easyazon_link identifier=”0307591557″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]The Happiness Advantage[/easyazon_link], it is happiness that begets success and not the other way around.
And one of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to start by sending someone a quick email every morning.
The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know. We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations. It also improves teamwork. We’ve measured the collective IQ of teams and the collective years of experience of teams but both of those metrics are trumped by social cohesion.
For a longer-term impact on happiness, Achor advises checking your attitude, sociability, and how you choose to view challenges.
According to psychologist Tom Gilovich, lead author on “The Ideal Road Not Taken,” published in the journal Emotion, our regrets that bother us the most involve failing to live up to our “ideal selves.” Basically, we’re not as bothered by the mistakes we’ve made or the things we ought to have done as we are bothered by never becoming the person we truly wanted to be. Gilovich explains:
“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be. Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life. The ‘ought’ regrets are potholes on the road. Those were problems, but now they’re behind you.”
The author delineates the actual self, ideal self, and the ought self in what's called the self-discrepancy theory:
The actual self is what a person believes themselves to be now, based on current attributes and abilities. The ideal self is comprised of the attributes and abilities they’d like to possess one day—in essence, their goals, hopes, and aspirations. The ought self is who someone believes they should have been according to their obligations and responsibilities. In terms of regrets, the failure of the ought self is more “I could have done that better,” and the failure of the ideal self is more “I never became that person I wanted to become.”
So, chase your ideal self – not what you think you are, not what your peers want you to be, but what you aspire to be. You're going to have to make the leap if you want to avoid the worst kind of regret: not trying at all.