Allison Coyle

The well established conformists path is the easy one, it has been traveled many times and its rewards are mediocre at best.

Tag: perception

Pageantry of Vanity

If you haven’t yet seen this video, I implore you to do so before you read any further.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

Most, if not all, of us go through phases in which we rid ourselves of social media. For some, it’s not simply a phase but a conscious, permanent decision to change the way we interact with others.

I deleted my Facebook account last June after my heart was broken by a guy I was convinced I was destined to marry. I have over 500 “friends” on Facebook, yet I felt completely alone. In my sorry state, I wrote several notes about my situation, hoping to receive feedback from others who could relate. Yet I received none. Thankfully, I was interning with a great group of people at the time who pulled me out of my funk and brought color back to my life. This incident caused me to reevaluate the true purpose and necessity of social media in my own life. I was no longer “networking” or “keeping up” with old friends and acquaintances. I was airing my dirty laundry for virtual strangers to read. And I wasn’t alone in doing so.

Have you ever stopped and really taken note of how people utilize their social media pages? Some people genuinely do keep up with friends and share interesting articles and videos with said friends. My grandma is a great example of that, as is my friend Tiffany, who uses Facebook to create event invites and share info with her friends studying midwifery. I am not a great example of this, unfortunately. While I love discussing politics, music, and movies, I realized not too long after I created a Facebook page that social media is not the best medium for doing so. It’s much easier to debate and argue with others when you’re not forced to speak with them face to face. This has created unnecessary rifts in a few friendships, none of which, thankfully, have been permanent. So while I think discussing politics is a good and healthy practice, I now recognize that Facebook is a terrible venue for doing so.

I’m sure most people have examples of discussions gone awry due to miscommunication over social media. I can’t count the number of couples I’ve seen fight over one of them clicking “like” on someone else’s selfie or getting caught posting pictures of themselves with someone other than their significant other. It’s ridiculously juvenile, and this kind of behavior has permeated our culture just within the last decade. When was the last time you hung out with a friend without them taking a picture of their food or updating their status in the midst of a discussion? I got into an argument a few years ago with a friend who refused to put his phone away during dinner because he wanted to be in constant contact with his boyfriend.

Aside from the bad manners technology has wrought, there is a greater underlying problem in our culture. How often do you compare yourself to your friends on Facebook or Twitter? Their lives seem more exciting, right? They’re at a bonfire or at a party with loads of people on a Friday night, and you’re sitting at home, Netflix binging with pizza. They post pictures of their escapades with their new friends, and you feel guilty for only having three close friends. So, the next time you go out, you make sure to post a status or maybe even a picture of how much “fun” you’re having, because that’s what you do, right? You’re supposed to document everything you do on social media, right? I mean, doesn’t everybody? This creates a toxic cycle in which everyone feels the need to outdo one another in a false reality. We live our lives incorrectly assuming that those around us are happier, prettier, and more successful than us, based on pictures and statuses that they put up. Of course, we don’t know what their lives are really like outside of this social media bubble. We don’t know what they look like when they wake up, whether or not they feel self-conscious when they look in the mirror, how many close, reliable friends they have, or even how happy they are. The same people you envy may very well envy you.

I ended up reactivating my Facebook page last September, 3 ½ months after I had deleted it, for what reason, I can’t remember. I do remember reactivating it with the intent of doing so temporarily. I will be deleting my Facebook page at midnight tonight, with the intent of doing so permanently. I feel like a hypocrite for engaging in behavior that I condemn, and now feels like the right time to bow out.

I hope that you will weigh the pros and cons of social media in your own life and decide whether or not you’re using it as a means of communication or as a tool for narcissism.

Perception

I’m fascinated by how time can warp our perception of a given period in the past. I’d like to say that my struggle to make sense of my life is a recent development, but that would be a lie. I never have and I don’t believe I ever will “know” my place in life. I’m a big believer in fate…when it’s happening to others. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re living day to day. Each day feels monotonous and repetitive. With age, my belief in the “big picture” diminishes. Looking at life in a linear fashion is human nature; it’s a quick, efficient way for people to summarize what they’ve done. I myself am partial to the segmented view, which simply means you divide your life experiences into categories based on age/particular memories. You could easily make the case that segmented parcels of time are tantamount to the big picture of life, but I find it less daunting and depressing to view my life thus far in various categories.

 As I briefly alluded to, this ongoing struggle to make sense of the day to day is not a recent development, though I have a tendency of thinking so in the moment. I was experiencing my weekly quarter-life crisis earlier today when I decided to go back and look at some of my blog posts from last year. For the past few months, I’ve romanticized my experiences as a 20 year old in DC. As a 21 year old, I’ve been in a state of constant panic, feeling as though my life has not panned out as planned. To my surprise, my writing from last year reflects that to an even GREATER extent. I know this sounds nuts, I mean…it was only last year, right? I SHOULD have a clear picture in my mind of how I was feeling just last year, shouldn’t I? This is an excerpt from one of my blog posts from last fall:

 “What do you want to be?” This question has plagued me my entire life; more recently, it has threatened to undermine what little sanity I possess. As a four year old, I knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to captivate tens of thousands of people with nothing more than my voice.

Seventeen years later, I feel saddened, confused, and lost when asked the same question that once drew a spirited, audacious response. “What do you want to be?”

I found myself confronted with this rootless question once again two weeks ago during a job interview for a reporter position with a news network. “What do you want to be?” asked the pretentious editor, waiting for me to faulter. “I want to be a reporter,” I responded, the weight of my lie sinking to the bottom of my stomach. I have no remorse in lying to a news editor; I am saddened by the lies I feed myself. In fairness, it was a half-lie. Some small part of me does want to track down story leads, harrass politicians, and become a household name a la Bob Woodward. But that part of me is very small…and dying every day.

I only realize in hindsight how deeply rooted my uncertainty has been these past few years. The breadcrumbs trail back to my first encounters with my political idols. In each instance, instead of asking for career advice, like my brazenly confident peers, I, in my desperation, asked, “Do you ever reach an age at which you’re truly happy? Do you ever stop panicking about where you’re going in life?” Some say yes, others say no. During a panic-induced, damn-near-teary-eyed phone call with Tucker Carlson, he assured me that what I’m feeling is good…that fear drives you to succeed. When the conversation began to steer toward him giving me career advice, I pried for personal advice. I want nothing more than for someone to tell me what to do…assure me that happiness is tangible…that it’s not merely an esoteric concept.

No, I don’t know what I want to be. I don’t think there is one single thing I want to be. But I know who I want to be. I know the things I want to do. I want to be a writer, a singer, a good friend, a mother. I want to climb mountains, learn about cars, become a vegan, talk to a nomad, own a used bookstore, live in a cabin, see every corner of America.

Why do we allow our worth to be measured by others? Why is it we never stop to wonder what it is that would make us truly happy?

More importantly, why do we never do that which would make us truly happy?

Self-doubt ran my life as a 20 year old. It was all I thought about, from the moment I got in the car every morning to the moment I set my alarm every night. “What am I doing with my life?” As apparent in my blog post above, my uncertainty strangled me to the point of sending rambling, incoherent emails to various political figures in my virtual rolodex, in hopes that they would ease my fears and help me make sense of my life and my chosen career path. I needed validation. While other strong-minded, brilliant, career-centered interns asked intelligent questions about taking their careers to the next level, I desperately, and quite pathetically, sought answers to esoteric questions pertaining to happiness and finding peace in life, questions that have no real answer.

While I still fear the future (rather, not knowing), my life is beginning to take shape, though it may not seem to in the day to day. Perception of the past is relative to where you find yourself in the future. While I’ll always treasure the time I spent in DC, it was no fairytale, contrary to what I prefer to believe. The next time you think back to a point in the past, try to remember the full-picture, not just the footnotes.