Appearance vs Experience: How social media has changed what we value

taking a photoHow often would you say you check your social media news feeds and see a picture of a friend on vacation, enjoying a fancy dinner, attending an expensive sporting event, meeting a celebrity or buying something big like a car or a house? I would venture to say this is likely an everyday occurrence. It’s common for social media to attract information such as big announcements or fun experiences, but what’s concerning is the trend of sacrificing the full enjoyment of these experiences in order to amplify their appearance.

We are becoming a society that is more focused on the appearance of our life experiences than we are with the actual enjoyment our life experiences. We can no longer appreciate a Valentine’s Day dinner unless we first check-in to the restaurant on social media, share a picture of our pricy entree and finish with an overly mushy (and overly personal) post about our significant other. Why do we need the validation of our social networks to confirm that life is good? Your vacation still occurred whether it’s on your Facebook newsfeed or not and your new car still exists even if your Twitter followers haven’t seen a photo. But maybe the reality of our lives is no longer enough. Maybe now we feel we need a broader audience to really enjoy life’s pleasures. This thought begs the following question…

Do we value the appearance more than the experience?

If you have ever paused, recreated or staged a moment so you could take a photo for Facebook, then the answer is yes. If you have ever updated your status in the middle of a romantic dinner, on vacation or during a massage, the answer is yes. I know I’m just as guilty of this crime as many of you may be and worse yet, it’s a hard habit to break! Next time you’re experiencing something really fun or unique, resist the temptation to update your social media. It seems downright unnatural. In particular, Facebook is becoming a “brag book” where we seek approval and validation for almost everything we do in life. It’s simply not accurate, and a little absurd, to measure the importance of such special moments by the number of “likes” a photo receives. We need to reverse this trend by refocusing on the experience over the appearance. We need to disconnect, even briefly, to allow ourselves a chance to take in the memory of a moment.

While social media has become the catalyst for this problem, it is a platform for sharing. There’s no reason not to update your networks with good news or a photo of something you enjoy. This is only cause for concern if in doing so you diminish the real-life experience for yourself. If you’re too busy trying to capture everything on your iPhone, the world is going to pass you by. Sure you’ll have photos to remind you of these great memories, but wouldn’t you rather simply live them first hand?

Have you seen examples of this emerging trend? Maybe you’re even a contributor. Where do you find your enjoyment – in the appearance or the experience?

8 thoughts on “Appearance vs Experience: How social media has changed what we value

  1. Great article and so true. For me, not so much on the social sharing side of things but since I started photographing wildlife it soon became about chasing that action shot of a kill or the moment a bird takes flight. I found I would spend days in the wild taking thousands of photos but feeling like I hadn’t really “experienced” what the things I had pictures of. Now I have to tell myself after taking several photos to put the camera down and just savour the experience rather than just capturing the appearance.

    1. That’s another great example, Rory! I have no doubt that your photography has allowed you to capture some beautiful moments (especially from the photos you’ve shared on your blog), but it’s even more important that you’ve taken the time to appreciate the moment without just looking through a lens. It sounds like there might be a great life analogy in there somewhere too!

  2. Very interesting article, one that has actually required me to think about the topic at hand. Now I’m very much into my social media stuff, have been for many years now even before being part of the online giant known as Facebook I was sharing pictures all the time on other sites. Why? I think it was just because it was the “in thing” at the time, plus I dunno why but there was always a bit of satisfaction that came when you posted something and someone replied to it.

    Now I agree that there is too much of these statuses in news feeds which people talking about every little thing in their lives. And while I have wrote a few too many random statuses, I can say that I am okay. I know when to go offline and live life. The only reason I put stuff online is so that my peeps can see it, I use Facebook and social media sites for the reason they were created, to connect with family and friends. But with the words of this article in mind I’ll remember to slow down every once in a while.

    1. It sounds like you definitely have the right idea! I think social media is a great way to share and connect – especially with many friends and relatives who I simply never see in a year or more. It makes me feel like I’m staying in touch when I see pictures of their children or vacations. The tricky part is finding that balance between capturing the moment and living the moment. Keep on living in the moment!

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