Reflections: What Would Henry David Thoreau say about Social Media?

I’ve been having an increased issue with social media -not that it isn’t useful but the fundamental problem it comes with regards to questions of living.

I sometimes ask myself, what is my life? What is life and am I consciously
living it?

Am I being deliberate by how I interact with the very elements that make me
a human or am I creating an illusion for myself and calling it a life?

Life these days seems to be a performance. To sell yourself, to producticize
yourself as a human, you need to perform. You need to do things that seems so
uncharacterically unnatural to be accepted.

I believe Jason Silva got it wrong about instagram. This generation experiences memories as anticipated memories, as Dr. Daniel Kahnman says.  It is in reality a curation of your life moments – fleeting. You don’t have the agency to decide how to architect how you experience things, as Silva espouses, without giving up something. In that process you lose the lived reality for that ‘anticipated’ future. We don’t become artists, or authors for our lives by being given this agency – we are deliberately living in an altered reality that panders to our ego, it panders to how we wish things were, not how things are. The blessing in memory is to re-live, to re-tell and reflect over your experiences as you experienced them authentically. Capturing everything and exposing everything is, in my opinion, an unfit way to live your life. It’s a supreme act of the ego, the base self. The act of documenting is largely an introspective process and I really believe it needs to be differentiated from what we call ‘documenting’ on social media, which is more aptly described as overexposure. I can see it as nothing but the
objectification of ourselves in utmost desperation to live what we deem ‘reality’ and impose our own agency to decide how we get to experience that reality for anything more that what it already was in that moment.

What troubles me deeply about social media is that it is like living your life
through a mirror – always aware and hyper-conscious about how you are percieved.

You forget the human being that is living it. You become numb to anything
but yourself. It’s the worst kind of inward looking – nothing introspective
about it. It’s hard to engage with deep questions of life these days and I feel
that most people are living with the perception of their own mastery rather than
living it.

Unconsciously, I’ve adopted a minimalist life and a lifestyle designer attitude to
how I shape my life to combat these feelings but I cant help but feel there are more questions to be asked and more answers to learn from.

I don’t want to live my life through a screen, as though it was a play I’ve
written about myself that I am performing for the world day in and day out. I
want to simply life – deeply and meaningfully without any need to prove it to
anyone and to have an impact, without seeking anything back.

It’s 330 am – a time where these questions come up and would have thought that Andy Warhol would have been the best person to ask these question to. But no, now Henry David Thoreau speaks to me so well. If there were any writer that I feel would navigate this lived reality so well, it would be him.

His answer: It’s a life of the unmarked self that, in this day and age, is most powerful. What can be more powerful than to not be known. To committ yourself to something more than oneself and not chase after anything fleeting. It’s recognizing that, in your committed to life and your mastery, is in some strange way the reason people remain immortal. Trying to capture everything, paradoxically, only keeps you that much farther in arms reach away from the immortality you seek.

With on foot in the matrix and one foot out, I will continue to navigate this world, where the greatest challenge seems to be understanding the reality of it all.

The following words could have been written by him in this act day and age. I find solace in them.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the
essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and
not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live
what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation,
unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow
of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not
life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and
reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the
whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if
it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of
it in my next excursion.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”