Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That quote could be a blog post in itself, and maybe it will be eventually, but right now I want to explore the inverse of that statement, and how it is especially relevant in today’s culture, with respect to social media.
I think most people my age (and even most people not my age) have been guilty of “stalking” someone on social media at one point or another. I am not exempt from this behavior. In my case, I might stumble upon on Facebook or Instagram account, (perhaps I know them personally, perhaps I don’t,) and start to look into their lives, normally with admiration and even a twinge of jealousy. There is one particular account on Instagram that I follow for no good reason, other than the account owner lives a life I think I would enjoy. She lives in the desert in a van, with her 2 dogs and husband. Per her photos, their days are filled with rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and swimming. Their van is like something out of an REI magazine, their dogs have harness of their own and so they can rock climb too, and her husband seems to serenade her with the acoustic guitar under the Milky Way on a semi-regular basis. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is a life that I would look fondly upon. Upon first glance their lives are one big camping trip. They are surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful landscape and post amazing photographs. Sometimes I lose 20 minutes just looking at her pictures.
Now, to this person’s credit, she is also a tasteful writer, and puts a great deal of effort into keeping it real with her followers. She talks about the ups and down of “vanlife,” and she makes sure to clarify that she had her husband both have full time jobs. I’ve come to not only enjoy her photos, but her perspective on life as well.
Now, lets get back to Socrates. He said that the unexamined life is not worth living. So is the inverse true? Is the unlived life worth examining? Why am I spending my precious time wishing I was in her shoes? Even if, collectively, I only spend 2 hours of my life looking at her account, that’s 2 hours of my own life I will never get back.
Social media makes it so easy for us to do this. Facebook is constantly suggesting new friends for us. Instagram has a whole page dedicated to showing us accounts we may like to follow, (as if we need more.) Its so easy to think “hmm, this person looks interesting…) and then before you know it we’ve wasted 30 minutes dreaming about what it would be like to live in that person’s world. When you step back and look at it, does it make sense? Is that a valuable use of our time? I think not.
I want to spend more time examining my own life, and not the lives of others. If we instead spend 30 minutes each day thinking about our own lives, (like what we want to accomplish, what is important to us, how we plan to reach our goals, etc.) think of what we could achieve. Who doesn’t want more direction in their life? More clarity? These things don’t just come magically, and especially not while scrolling through social media. Its up to us to figure it out.
I’ll end this post with one more quote. Albert Camus said “You will never be happy if you search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” I think he means that the meaning of life is not to be looked for, it is to be created.
Create something meaningful.
Inspiration for this post came from (shock!) a book I recently read, called Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It, by Daniel Klien. As a 20-something, Klien started a journal with quotes from famous philosophers that he found inspiring, relevant, or moving. Now in his eighties, he reflects upon each quote, noting how he felt in his 20s, and how he feels now, much closer to the end of his life. Written with a Bill Bryson-esque sense of humor, I found it both deeply meaningful and entertaining. I would highly recommend the book, especially for anyone looking to delve deeper into the meaning of life.