Social Media and the Manicured Life
Posted by Jonathan Rice
Mrs. Shim, the director of Fulbright Korea, uses “don’t compare” as key advice on having a successful grant year. Her logic is that comparison leads to a fear of missing out, which leads to unhappiness. Yet, I am in a country that embraces social media and smartphones, arguably even more than America does. The tools for comparison are everywhere. The kids that I teach have newer and nicer mobile devices than the teachers do. The social media culture in South Korea abounds—even my host family has their own private social network, called a BAND, to share each day’s best moments with each other. What this culture of social creates, to borrow from Walter Issacson, is a reality-distortion field. Life becomes manicured moments weaved together into a seemingly flawless narrative.
A few days ago, I was reading a short interview with Randi Zuckerberg in the New York Times. Zuckerberg, as you might have figured out by the last name, is the older sister of Mark and the former Chief Marketing Officer for Facebook. The most revealing line of her conversation comes when she notes how Facebook influences the way that people perceive her:
“I’m a marketer; I’m only posting the moments that are amazing”
The interviewer argues that Facebook is making us all marketers. Zuckerberg shoots back that she thinks social media is making us better storytellers. Nevertheless, if she’s right, just what kind of stories are we telling?
Judging from my experiences while in Korea and elsewhere, the stories we “write” are about entertaining. That’s logical, too—who wants to broadcast their complaints about the day? However, for people outside of our close friend groups who consume our social media content, for those that don’t have the chance to have a long phone conversation with you at the end of a stressful day, life takes on an alternate reality. Like television, our lives are then seemingly only made of our best moments or grandest failures, as the case might be.
We’re becoming better storytellers. However, as Jon Lovett emphasized in his speech at my graduation from Pitzer College, we need to reclaim authenticity in that process. We need to realize that a textured life can be just as, if not more, insightful as a manicured one.
I often don’t post about my struggles, partly because they are what I feel every new teacher or expat (or both) go through. But even if I don’t put them out to the world, my personal battles exist.
There are days when lessons feel like a complete failure, when I wonder if they left the class with more knowledge or less.
There’s the frustration when the circular-communication model of using “maybe” and “possibly” endlessly to save face is too much and incites a burst of anger inside.
That moment when, even in a new experience filled with fresh faces, I feel very alone.
We don’t necessarily have to be all about doom and gloom. It’s important to entertain and to share the best moments, but sometimes those lesser times matter too. The rough times are when our commonality shines through–we need both to make a connection.
About Jonathan RiceFulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.
Posted on 11/05/2013, in Fulbright South Korea 2013-14, General and tagged authenticity, Culture Shock, don't compare, education, emotion, ETA, Expat, Facebook, Fulbright ETA, Fulbright Korea, jon lovett, Pitzer College, randi zuckerberg, Social Media, South Korea, Teaching, textured life, Zuckerberg. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.