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

The existential crisis of the smartphone generation.

Attempting to hide behind lace curtains weeks ago, I whipped out my iPhone and secretly zoomed in to capture my neighbor, Dave, out doing lawnwork in a kilt. It wasn’t just any kilt, either—it was a utility kilt, one of those crazy-looking cargo pant/skirt hybrids made for getting stuff done.

Facebook, I thought, is going to love this.

I just moved to this house in our New Jersey suburb. I barely know Dave, but he seems very nice. And here I am, new in town and risking my whole real-life future relationship with my neighbors for one stupid Facebook post. Why? The answer comes minutes later, when the Utilikilt scores high, setting my phone abuzz with friends “liking” and commenting on the photo. A hit.

The online personae of Heckenberger and Ilagan and Schroeder clearly resonate with strangers in a way mine doesn’t. I can honestly say that the sole rewards I get from tweeting something that gets retweeted or posting a picture that gets nice comments—pro­bably the sole ones most of us get—are of the ego-boosting variety. We bait our dog with bacon to get him to look cute on Instagram. We almost rear-end the car in front of us (um, for instance) to get a picture of a license plate that reads VROOM. I’d say that if all these efforts are good for anything, it’s those virtual high-fives and pats on the back.

It seems to be enough to keep us posting. One friend reports to me that her husband—a prolific participant on both Facebook and Instagram—“giggles and gets giddy” when he gets a lot of likes and comments: “It’s like he’s opening presents on Christmas morning.” Another friend admits spending up to 10 minutes debating the phrasing of her Facebook posts, reading and re-reading posts before actually publishing lest she come off as anything but clever, or insightful, or funny. When we manage to share a sentiment or picture or idea or anything that resonates with our audience, we feel like a star, if only for a moment.

“The core of it is that it validates you,” Urbania says. “It fires synapses in your brain to create a pleasurable experience. With likes and comments and retweets, it’s like when people nod heads, smile, congratulate you or clap. It’s the same feelings you get exactly, translated one-to-one.”

One Harvard study concluded that writing about ourselves on social media stimulates the same part of the brain we use when we eat food, are given money … or have sex. Is it any wonder the world spends 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook?

But it’s not all warm fuzzies and instant gratification. “Are Your Facebook Friends Stressing You Out? (Yes)” was an Atlantic headline last fall, with the magazine’s Megan Garber reporting that striving for more and more online friends leads most of us to make a constant “preemptive” effort to keep them all happy … or at least not unhappy. As our audience widens, our worlds and our various selves collide in ways that can affect what we allow ourselves to show. Garber writes, “All the careful tailoring we do to ourselves (and to our selves)—to be, say, professional in one context and whimsical in the other—d­issolves in the simmering singularity of the Facebook timeline.”

This last bit, 20-somethings like me are actually pretty bitter about: These platforms were originally created for the co­llege crew. And we were all having a hell of a lot more fun before our moms and bosses joined in. Now, most of us edit ourselves, at least to some degree. We’ll untag ourselves from unflattering pictures friends put up; we’ll think twice about many of our posts, lest our politics, language, bad spelling or w­hatever should anger one of the 600 pe­ople who will read them. You know, to be safe. To not sound stupid to people outside our immediate friend group, to not embarrass ourselves in some way. And, also, to not have arm fat.

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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