Saturday, December 3, 2022

Do you really need to take that selfie?

August 6, 2014
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Last weekend, my local running community broke a world record.

Our 219-person relay team set the world record for most consecutive miles run in a 24-hour period. The previous record was 180 people. In both relays, each person ran a mile with the relay baton in front of dozens of running enthusiasts. The local paper covered the event, and some participants drove over 4 hours to get to the track and join in.

I enjoyed my favorite sport with some of my favorite people. I got to take the baton from my dad. I was stretched by an old teammate and I made new friends.

I didn’t take a single picture.

I didn’t even bring my phone, because I didn’t think I would need it. And there are still pictures of me, taken by other people, all over Facebook. My friends and I still posed for the camera. But no photo, no matter how high-quality or perfectly framed it is, could compare to being there on the track, cheering your lungs out for some of your 218 teammates.

This event garnered a lot of social media attention, and rightfully so. It built up excitement for a frequently overlooked sport, and the event coordinator, Jon Rock, was awake for roughly 40 hours straight to prepare and operate the all-day event.

But it’s a bit irritating how even the most trivial things are documented these days. One of my friends posts a selfie online everytime he walks into a new building, even if that building is a grocery store or his own apartment.

A few of my cousins are completely engrossed in their phones and don’t talk as much anymore, but they text and Snapchat like crazy.

It’s not that I don’t love my cousins or enjoy staying up-to-date on my friends’ activities. The issue I have is with their digital personalities.

When we focus on developing our digital personalities instead of our real ones, we lose out on building meaningful personal relationships. Social media is a great tool for connecting with other people, but it’s not the only one. Nor is it essential.

It’s hard to feel valued in a face-to-face conversation when the other person seems more engaged with an iPhone, and it’s hard to enjoy an experience when you’re more concerned with sleuthing out Instagram photo opportunities.

As we prepare for the upcoming semester, let’s challenge ourselves to devote less time to our digital personalities and more on developing actual relationships. The friendships we make at Michigan State are precious, and after graduation we can look to social media (or write letters!) to stay in touch.

But for now, let’s focus on the face-to-face.

Put your phone away when you’re in the cafeteria, even if you’re eating there alone. I promise we won’t miss the pictures you take of your tray every meal. If a friend posts a cool picture or status online, ask that person about it. Start up a phone call or face-to-face conversation about that picture from a study abroad or the status about eating 20 pieces of pizza in a row.

Write letters. I promise people will appreciate them more than a text. Go outside and exercise for a half hour instead of watching a re-run of a mediocre television show on Netflix.

Log off Facebook, take a break from Twitter, close this browser, and experience life. Let your digital personality pass your true self the baton, and pursue your own personal records.

Melanie Brender is a communications and social relations and policy senior. Reach her at brenderm@msu.edu.

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