Digital Diarrhea – How Social Media Is Destroying My Personal Development

Digital Diarrhea

Traveling. The first thing people talk about when they’re asked about hobbies or things they would like to do more of in life. For me, traveling means movement, new ideas, endless impressions and the ability to look at your surroundings like a curious child, with its eyes wide open, who sees everything for the first time. Not mastering the local language or knowing the in’s and out’s of a place make you feel inferior and at the mercy of your environment, which can be incredibly rewarding amongst goodhearted people. It is about the learning and the mind-alteration it kicks off. About seeing and approaching things differently. And most of all, about the bigger picture, the “why are we here”, and the realization of how much we are actually all similar and connected to each other.

I’ve set out on a full year of travels this year to experience exactly that. Fast tracked personal growth. Mind alterations. A wealth of learnings and epiphanies. Full of curiosity, desires and expectations. Throwing myself into every adventure and place I could lay my hands on. And, making videos of the incredible experiences I was able to have, and to share it with the rest of my friends and family as I went. Created a YouTube channel and a homepage for it. And suddenly, I realized many others were interested in this! People I had never met but where now part of the community. Owning it, commenting on it. And what can I say – it feels incredible if you have a crowd following your journey and wanting to be part of it, especially if you are used to taking life on by yourself!

But the further I got into it, the more I realized one problem: The more you document and share your travels, the more the importance of documenting them starts to override experiencing them! And instead of embracing, being and breathing in the moment, most of the time we choose to see the experience unfold with a lens between us. It’s like an automatic response to pull out your phone and start taping, photographing, and before you know it, the moment is over.

I can’t tell you how much that has impacted me within the last 4 months, as someone who is incredibly guilty of this. You might say that somehow it has always been like that, and I agree. We naturally long to capture beautiful moments for eternity; we don’t want them to end, and that’s very human behavior. But documenting travel experiences used to be a very selective act of conserving memories. Browsing through old family photo albums back at home this week had me realize this in a very profound way – how I miss the times where you could not see the picture right after taking it, and you had to be very selective about your shots, as film and its development were expensive. Carefully and lovingly choosing the place, background and moment for one specific picture (and then clicking only once) took maybe 30 seconds away from our experience and had us right back in it after it was done. And I suddenly remembered how this act of browsing photo albums after a family vacation was a fireplace kind of evening activity to bring the memories back to life, with active participation. Where did all of that go?

Ironically, today we spend more time taking and editing pictures and videos than actually living and experiencing the moment, and thus, fatally, we have never really HAD the moment! We’re taking hundreds of pictures of a situation that we have never really experienced, engineer and design it, and, even more, edit it to portray absolute perfection in a 15 minute cell phone solitude. And perfection has nothing to do with accuracy, as once the picture is filtered enough to be instagrammable, perfection usually means that it by far exceeds the reality of the moment. We’re leaving a trail of Instagram and Facebook moments that are for sure artworks in themselves, but not much better than actually having your head photoshopped into an existing picture of the place.

No wonder that the so called FOMO is one of the most prevalent anxieties of millennials – “fear of missing out”. It is the mental idea of the rest of the world having more fun than you, looking better than you, doing cooler stuff than you, and social media has created a massive machine for that – a machine that produces a competition of personalities turned into media artworks! It is not about documenting memories to reminisce with the family at an annual get-together, no, by now it is all about your visual personal branding and the amount of likes you’re receiving.

Now, let me stop preaching right here… Don’t get me wrong! I’m very, very guilty of this myself. I have fallen for Facebook ever since I left my home country several years ago, looking for a way to keep in touch with my loved ones efficiently. The feeling of getting a reaction and a like from the world out there is priceless if you can’t get a live hug when you need one, especially when you’ve been around and done your thing on your own for quite a bit. But I also realize how much significant damage that can cause to one thing that is very important to me, if not the most important thing in my life: Personal development, through growing in situations and experiences. Becoming the best person you can possibly be on this earth, to leave it in a better shape and make a difference in every way you can.

And I realized one thing: I need to get back to experiencing over documenting! Put myself first, and the revelations that these places and moments have for me! And then, put documentation second, as what it is: A means to share with the world what you have learned. What thoughts it has triggered. And what realizations came out of it.

Will I get off Facebook? Stop making videos? Cancel my Instagram account? No, I definitely won’t. I am a big believer in social media to be able to do incredible good, if used in the right way! But I have decided to re-engineer my mode of traveling in various ways to enrich my experience and undergo the development that I am looking for, and partly that will impact the volume of my video-making and posting. I will start to limit myself. I will likely choose to enjoy the most precious moments and experiences by myself, with no one else watching, without instantly thinking of the next YouTube video I could create from that, and without immediately pulling my phone out of the bag. But yes, I will also continue to make a point of sharing what I believe will be of value. What will help you, and myself, understand the situations I’m in. The learnings that came from it. And sometimes, yes, you will likely still see me push out a post when I’ve had a long stretch and need a digital hug from you!

I’m incredibly grateful for this realization and for all of you who are following me and understand my thoughts. And I look forward to creating more “fireplace moments” in my videos, that might be more reflective and contemplating than documenting. Here is to real life, its experiences, its beautiful richness and lessons, its wonderful chaos, its challenges, rewards, and gifts! To being on this earth for a while, a human lifetime, one that is so short, too short to waste any minute of it. And to connection and love, the one single thing that all of this dance called life really is about.

Cheers! And thank you for being on this journey with me!


2 thoughts on “Digital Diarrhea – How Social Media Is Destroying My Personal Development

  1. I can completely relate to this. I was just sitting on the plane from Bangkok to Serbia, looking through my phone and realizing I barely took any photos in Thailand. At first I was disappointed, but then I realized it was because I was much more present all month. There was definitely more self reflection which my screens had been getting in the way of. Thanks for pusblishinng this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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