Social media is a supermarket

#63: It is the great charade and the maker of lonely; a cheap alternative to the real and good thing

Magnolia Meat Market, New Orleans, LA


Social media – marketed as community – functions as a one-stop-shop for how to live your life. But there are better ways to shop, keep up with friends, follow the news, be inspired, and share yourself and your work.

Are any of us happy with social media? We know how it contributes to the decline of our mental health, but we give ourselves over to it because we’ve rationalized it as our cultural supermarket.

Re: supermarkets, there are plenty of farmer’s markets, fruit stands, and butcher shops that all function as alternatives of personable specialty. One-stop shops, like supermarkets and social media, provide us with cheap alternatives to the real and good thing.

Wanna keep up with friends? Call, text, email, write, knock on their door. Wanna follow the news? Subscribe to a few different sources, like Tangle, and read some in one sitting. Wanna actively shop? Shop local or sift through the best options on Strategist or Wirecutter. Wanna share your perspective or your work? Perhaps social media is okay for that, but you might notice that cold-emailing a network of contacts or starting a newsletter could be just as effective, if not more effective.

I’m not saying there’s no good use for the thing – but that its value is greatly conflated and often takes away from our experience of life. If you want something personal and special, something that grabs you beyond a moment, perhaps you step away from the whole charade for a bit.

The charade, a great contributor to the division of America, separates us from even our closest friends. Moments spent at home with loved ones are now high-jacked by our phones at the slightest moment of boredom or discomfort.

We have stopped learning how to lean in to each other, to read each others eyes and facial expressions in real time. We have stopped truly searching for anything — there’s a search bar for that.

Our encyclopedia of anger and delusion is leaving us with barely one thing: ourselves. I wonder if loneliness is at an all-time high.

I’m not saying anything new. But sometimes thinking about things in a new way, is just as valid and helpful as actual new information can be. My main takeaway from this line of thinking has been that social media performs many functions, but isn’t really a top-performer of anything I’m interested in — and therefore, is a big waste of my time. Maybe that’ll help someone else out too.

For a good time in the autumn air and sunshine, listen to Brent Cobb’s new album — here’s one of my favorite songs from it:

I don't preach no tricks, don't talk politics
I'm just a casual singer holding my stones and my sticks
If I got a problem my job is pour my heart in a song
Well, hot dog, your opinion is louder than mine
You might wear out my nerves, but you ain't changing my mind
by, good God, let's hop off the soap box and get along