When Did Our Lives on Social Media Become More Time-Consuming Than Our Social Lives?

The existential crisis of the smartphone generation.

Do you know the most embarrassing possession of yours that someone will find if you die? I do. It’s a folder on my computer that contains hundreds of pictures I’ve taken of myself. The fact that I’m not phot­ogenic means that finding a Facebook profile picture is a nearly impossible task. Most candid shots of me aren’t worthy of playing a leading role onscreen: I blink, my smile’s crooked, I have arm fat. In short, they’re just a little too … real.

And so the awful truth is that on many a night when the lighting seemed just right, I’ve whipped out the camera and preened and vogued and snapped until I’ve come up with a photo that looks good enough for the job. Sometimes I’ve posed with my dog, as a buffer—but with or without dog, the requisites for the perfect picture are many: It has to be pretty but not suggestive. A natural smile—not goofy or smarmy. (This by itself has meant hundreds of duds.) I have to hold the camera just right so my arm isn’t in the picture, to have a prayer of convincing the world that I am absolutely not alone in my bathroom in New Jersey taking pictures of myself.

But of course, I am. And if you’re someone who uses any form of social media—which is pretty much everyone at this point—you probably have been, too. You also probably know that there’s a name for this sort of shot—a selfie—and that such self-portraiture has pretty much been de rigueur since the advent of the smartphone. In fact, cringe-y as it may seem while you’re snapping away four steps from your toilet, gone is the stigma that once might have come from taking your own picture and putting it on the Internet. The practice has essentially been elevated
to an art form. No less than the Wall Street Journal has weighed in: One recentish article titled “Super ‘Selfies’: the Art of the Phone Portrait” offered tips on lighting, outfits, and the best poses for appearing slender. And yes, there’s an app for that—“Selfie” uses facial detection and timers to make the snapping even easier.

Of course, the profile picture is just the beginning of being a real-life person who is also a person on the Internet, the jumping-off point for the curation of your digital self. It all escalates from there. Depending on your social media proclivities, you might make sure to check in at all the restaurant openings you attend (well, all the good ones, anyway), or you might Google the perfect Rousseau quote to really pack some punch into your repost of that Times story, or maybe you simply refrain from dropping your usual F-bombs on Twitter, because your mom follows you. Maybe you post your pictures in more dramatic black-and-white, or you realize you have to change your outfit before a party because that ensemble has already been seen on Facebook more than once, or you take that extra 20 seconds to come up with a hashtag that’s incredibly clever. In short: Your digital self ends up more interesting than the Dos Equis guy, quippier than Jon Stewart, and as photogenic as Giselle.

But here’s the question: Is it really you on there?

My mom, for one, thinks not. “Everyone on there is full of it,” she says, her standard answer when I ask why she’s abandoned Facebook. She cites an acquaintance of hers who would post constantly about how wonderful her husband and their life together was. Then, abruptly, they got divorced. That did it for my mother.

I sometimes wonder if she has a point. The magic of social media is, as we all know, its ability to connect us to each other, to offer up endless opportunities to network, find old crushes and maybe future ones, chat again with long-lost friends. And yet who, exactly, are we connecting with, these charming, witty people with less-than-average arm fat, so often on some sun-dappled vacation with their charming, witty children and their endlessly droll tweets? I wonder if by letting us constantly show our best face to the world, social media isn’t making us into a bunch of phonies.

Or, at very least, if our online selves are simply giving our harried real selves one more thing to manage, to spend time on, to stress about.

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  • Corry

    Wow, Whitlock. Tell us how you really feel

  • http://www.facebook.com/mjacobs45 Matt Jacobs

    Whitlock is spot on…..we’ve known that for the better part of a decade since he told us Pinkston and Thrash were good enough…..

  • Wilbert M.

    I’m on the same page with Whitlock as far as the play calling. It was ridiculous.

    • http://twitter.com/jaymattt Jay Matt

      Same here. When you have someone like McCoy, freaking use him!

  • BG

    I’d be willing to bet that if you went back to week 13 of last season and compiled what these has-beens or never-weres had to say about the Giants I’m sure it would echo the waste of space that has been propagated on this site. Fact is, last week’s game was a win (PERIOD) It has been proven over and over again, most recently by the 2011 (9-7) Champion Giants, that all you need to do is accumulate enough wins to get in and everyone has a shot. The rest is just hot air and mindless commentary.

    • ICDogg

      good point.

    • Septhinox

      I highly doubt you will find a stretch where Manning played as badly as Vick has been the last year and a half.

      They aren’t condemning the team as a whole, they are condemning Vick. And rightfully so.

  • jabostick

    I hate to give Reid too much credit but they obviously had a game plan (re: the “things they saw in the passing game” or whatever Reid said) and they put up a ton of yards. I understand the thought that if Vick is having a terrible day that you should move away and adjust but if you’re calling plays that are getting guys open and Vick is throwing late or telegraphing or making the wrong read, how is that on Andy?

    Again, I get the not adjusting earlier part of it, but it’s not as if Reid/Marty called a “force it into 3 guys” pass play. The execution was shitty, not necessarily the play calling.

  • TPZ

    Jason Whitlock is dead on with this topic. MV was horrible – I think we all get that, but he’s a worker merely following instructions (plays), and he’s not the type of QB that you’d want to overload with responsibility. Why is it that AR cannot or will not adjust his game plan on game day when it’s obviously needed. Is he and/or his staff that inept, or is he really that stubborn to maintain his scripted plan when the climate of the game is ever changing? Again, why? Over 60 passing attempts against a lower tiered team that notably has a proficient passing defense and poor against the run (and we have one of the best backs in the league)? Both MV & AR/offensive staff appeared to be cognitively challenged (PC for stupid) on Sunday, and what’s particularly troubling is that this isn’t the first time (or quarterback) that AR has displayed this thinking and action (or lack thereof)….Again, begs the question – can this guy win a superbowl?

  • Paul

    If the Eagles are so bad then somebody please explain to me why are they 21/2 points favorites against the Ravens this week?

    • ICDogg

      I still don’t have a grip on that myself.

  • Xoverscribbler

    Teddy Bruschi touches a nerve. There is SOMETHING about Michael Vick’s playing style and approach that is causing him to get hit and turn the ball over. We have seen the backups execute plays effectively without so much as a scratch; what gives, magic Mike? Let’s wipe the slate clean and play lights out!

    • ICDogg

      Slow decision making comes to mind.

      • http://twitter.com/MykeLane Michael Lane

        Going for the huge play every play unlike how the rookie or Edwards played sounds accurate. I think hero ball was something Teddy heard about from Bilechek. I’m sure he’ll be better game manger this week

  • dave h

    but what about “eagles lead[ing] the laegue in cap space ??” ..cant we celebrate that ??

    • jabostick

      “Joe Nickels Banner!” – philly.com reader

      • ICDogg

        Actually I’ve seen it more often rendered as Joe “Nickles” Banner. The spelling highlights the intelligence of the author.

  • Charlie foxtrot

    “Concerning ” is not a word, at least the way you’re trying to use it. You might say “of concern” perhaps.

  • http://twitter.com/The_Jruth Cory Widmann

    If only we had a Pro Bowl running back, I mean for real. Putting a lot on Vick to drop back 56 times. However it is a passing league and you need to throw the ball well, and he didn’t after the first Q.

  • xlGmanlx

    I can’t stand Brushi, what a jack ass. He and Harrison are the BIGGEST Pats homers in the media and it isn’t even close. How many SB’s have the pats won since being busted for cheating? Brady has been out Brady’d and their defense has been their achilles heal in both losses and that is supposedly BB strength. The NFL is such a fickle sport, if they win 3 in a row they will be crowned kings and if they lose two straight written off as a fluke. Nothing matters until the post season, we just enjoy the ride because there are only 16 games in the regular season. If they could sustain 40 game seasons, no one would care about the first 2.5 months.

  • Phillybrasil

    To me Jason Witlock is a morno because he really didn’t pay close attention to the game. The Eagles did run shady but every time he got a good run the Eagles got a penalty. So the run was nullified and then the Eagles has to past because was down and long. Secondly the eagles dominated in offensive plays by 20 more then the browns, so they had the ball a lot more. Shady carried the ball a lot more then the stats indicated because of do over runs through penalties. He is not a 30 carry back. I will admit Andy is sometimes too pass happy but he is also a consistant winner as coach. I am just sick of wanna be football fans or columnist who watched a stat line an think they can coach. Eagles and Andy Reid will be alright by Dec but Whitlock will be a moron long after

  • hopOFF

    they need to find something better to talk about than vicks first game of the season, which happened to be bad. wanting to and trying harder to win more than anyone else in the league is his only flaw. it does lead to him getting hurt at times but whether or not he plays all season he is going to do anything he can to help us win. even if he doesnt play we have a great system to slip foles in to. everything is leading to an eagles superbowl. hop off