A few months ago I was discussing social media with a class I was teaching, and asked them if they knew what Buzzfeed was. I expected all 15 hands to go up but when no one raised their hands, I felt my socially networked heart drop.
I began to panic. Why aren't they giving into this addiction that allows social media to give them perfectly compiled lists of what they should think and know?
They'll never get to see a jenky compilation of awkward cat pictures or laugh at perverted auto-correct texts. They don't know why they should be in love with Jennifer Lawrence. And OH THE FUTURE: They'll graduate college and epically fail their mid-twenties because they didn't read the 'What not to do in Your Twenties' article. They won't spend a zillion hours making a music video to propose to their girlfriend because they missed the best marriage proposals of 2013. They will continue to ABHORE the world because they didn't get to see National Geographic photos that proved the world wasn't hopeless. And they'll be average parents because their elf on the shelf didn't make their kids a life-sized ginger bread house the shape of a Hobbit hole over night.
And then I thought, "They don't need those articles. They can and will live well without them. Maybe their lives are actually better without them."
It's not news that Buzzfeed and any website like it has to be taken with a grain of salt. A lot of those websites are actually built for advertisement through viral means... a list of Beyonce's best moments from her surprise album? It's an ad...that goes viral. Best commercials of 2013? Those are straight up ads paying to get in a buzzfeed article.
But the uniquness of Buzzfeed, is that it "utilizes public opinion." And that's where the grain of salt thing comes in.
A stay at home mom, a 15 year old Halo addict, or a Stanford PHD thought up an idea about a certain topic, wrote it down, and, when that idea goes viral, that idea becomes something people start supporting, believing in, or sharing, whether or not that idea really has facts, statistics, or a well-rounded perspective backing it. When I read a random viral list that tells me I am "socially undone" if I find myself alone in bed, watching Downton Abbey, drinking a hard cider, and eating chips & sour cream, am I supposed to start fearing for my identity? I am tempted to stop reading, set down my cider, lick the chip residue off my fingers, and wonder if I really have lost myself or sunk so low that I'm a washed up twenty something in bed on a Friday night? Lately I've stopped clicking on articles that will make me angry or compare myself with others. Am I really going to allow eating chips in bed to dictate how I view myself? Aren't there more important ways I seek to value myself and others? Maybe eating chips in bed is what I need to be doing tonight-- maybe I've been going going going all week and this is my one night of rest and I'm choosing to spend it this way? I hope the generation I'm walking with is reminding themselves to take not just buzzfeed, but all social media outlets, with a grain of salt. It SCARES THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of me when I read viral blogs on what constitutes a good enough wife/girlfriend or the perfect husband/boyfriend. Will my marriage fail because I haven't been doing #7, #13, and everything between #101-#345? No, it won't. And I have to remember that I will never live that perfect list.
It scares me that someone out there is telling everyone that what we're doing is not enough. We aren't ideal enough for the world and we're not doing what everyone else important is doing. What are we doing when we share those articles without reading them critically? We're demanding unrealistic standards from ourselves and everyone else.