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  • Katie Smith


Have you ever stumbled upon a person who you think you know, or someone said you should know, or maybe you once knew? In order to solve this mystery, you Sherlock Holmes your way through social media outlets. You follow clickbait after clickbait, not really sure what you're looking for, but appreciating the dot-to-dot connections that justify your suspicions. Now, you realize that you have similar interests, similar friend groups, and similar backgrounds. You believe that there is an honest connection between your lives, but how can you complete the story?

Something interrupts you, and you look away from your screen. Enough time has passed that you feel a bit disoriented. Your mind, body and soul awake from a long winter's nap. How much time has passed? Who or what stole from you? You feel violated, frustrated, and slothful. You either need to get to the end of the rabbit trail you started, or receive your prize for playing the detective game. But where is the end? And who wins? What exactly is the prize?

Frantically scrolling, looking for validation that never comes, you have a choice at this crux: angrily decide that the dot-to-dot was numbered incorrectly, and it shouldn't take any more of your time. Or dog-ear the virtual page and return to the feeding frenzy at a later time so that you can prove your search was not in vain.

I am not much for social scrolling-- I'd rather talk than text, but I've indulged in a rabbit trail like this a time or two, and I hate the feeling afterwards. The disorientation makes me think I've just been sold a fake product from the old QVC channel. I'm duped or doped on something. But when it comes to human connections, there isn't usually any foul play. So where is the issue?

Think about the words used for these virtual experiences: feed, like, scroll, follow. These terms are without a designated end. They actually require continuity or conditioning in order to keep them from ending. Therefore, we, the consumers, are conditioned to keep feeding, liking, scrolling, and following lest we fall off the face of the flat screen earth.

Social media, like any mystery game, is not the villain. The game is the platform for the iniquity to lurk. On a good level, the game gives mass notifications regarding major life events and eradicates the barrage of emotional phone calls. On the villainous level, the Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlett occur among the players. Mass connections prevent us from achieving real depth and intimacy in relationships. Instead, we find "cliffnote" companions or mob-mentality groups to satisfy our need for fellowship. In other words, we develop quick, easy, surface-level friends, or we blend into the background of a large group gathering chanting our mantras together.

Either way, we are now so globally connected that we feel a responsibility to inform everyone about our lives. We no longer think that our lives are worthy unless documented or found familiar online. As they say, "If you don't record it, it doesn't exist." Since our records have gone green, we must stream our lives into existence.

Cameras capture memories, but they also leave little space on the memory chip. My kids "remember" exactly what happened when they were two and three. But the details they recall all mimic the picture or video. There's no depth to the discovery-- no travel down memory lane. Only what we record do we recall.

If we are too busy thinking about how the next frame will add followers or subscribers, then we have already conditioned our brains to live in a virtual world. Rather than look for ways to monopolize our memories, what if we simply made them? Unfortunately, since our businesses have become virtual, our lives follow suit. We need a "thumbs up" to make money. Thus, we have trapped ourselves in our own mystery murder game.

But what if we eradicated the villain? What if we found another way to make a living without likes? Then, perhaps we would recognize that our intimacy has been misplaced, not stolen. Our desire for depth wouldn't be left to any dot-to-dot connection, but a real paved-path. A way, a truth, a lighted path. The one that doesn't have a drone, a go-pro, or a selfie-stick attached to it. We would trust whoever crossed our path had purpose not prizes. Then, our faith would not resemble cliff-notes or circus-dramas. Then, the intimacy we crave would be eternally satisfied no matter our circumstances. We would finally feel complete.

--While not yet fully complete, we are living satisfied, walking the straight and narrow carefully and carelessly--

~Carefully Careless

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