Words: Susannah Al-Naib (She/Her)
The release of Adele’s album, 30, in the autumn of 2021, was a monumental time for me to sit and explore listening to music on the basis of an album in full, rather than finding a pre-made playlist of the most popular songs to suit a certain ambience. This, in turn, was a crucial moment for me to indulge in Adele’s intention behind her album and to explore her artistry. I was reminded of a time a few years prior, when I had been asked my favourite album and I could not answer because all I knew were the mixed assortments of top radio charted music. It was this reflection that made me aware I had never truly taken the time to live in the moment and appreciate art for what it was.
With the fast evolution and growth of social media, has our ability to live in the moment been hindered? Has consuming more online caused a lack of appreciation, creating a race through life out of fear of running out of time? Now that we can compare ourselves to the seemingly prosperous lives of 16-year-old A-List celebrities on social media, we are becoming part of a generation who are finding it painfully easy to feel unfulfilled with our own lives. Social media has developed into a medium in which it is easy to show off. It is a place full of highs, greatest achievements and unattainable lifestyles. Young adults showing off their designer handbags or sports-cars because they are ‘self-made’. Yet, all of this feeds on feeling inadequate. People have become so desperate to prove themselves as accomplished at such a young age, when in reality we have more time than we think. So now we post on our Instagram stories and we film every minute of the concerts we attend to create proof of our own false narrative.
Consequently, the ability to live in the moment is deteriorating with the growing pressure put on social appearances. Whether it be our own actions or somebody else’s, it can be hard to appreciate time with others without the distraction of our phones and social media, talking about the lives of people we see online. So now, we are tired due to constantly comparing our lives to the highlights of others, making us run on adrenaline and fear of not living a seemingly fulfilled life. Studies by Chang Lui and Jianling Ma have shown a correlation between the anxiety caused by social media and burnout. Hustle culture has embedded itself in the subconscious of online presences and is affecting our health. So, how can we change this? How can we enjoy the development of technology without losing our sense of self?
In Matt D’Avela’s documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, the minimalists highlight how, as consumers, we have become more materialistic in the wrong sense of the word. Rather than consuming less high quality goods, we have become products of capitalism and have developed a desire to want more. We have become unsatisfied with our timeless pieces and fall for micro-trends. But who can blame us? The social media trend cycle spins so quickly that we lose our perception of time in the process and this becomes a great metaphor for how we conduct our lives on a larger scale. Therefore, we need to grasp onto everything we have before us. To take care of the clothes we own, or the time spent with our loved ones. That way, we can prove to ourselves that we are happy and fulfilled. That we have nothing to prove. Measure your time in decades, not days.
In light of this, to my past self I say;
Appreciate time. Allow yourself to feel your feet on the ground and take a breath – your time will come. Look around you, at the older people who inspire you; my older professors who have committed their lives to one particular study; my father, who at the age of 72, is still excited for all the opportunities he is yet to cease. Put your phone down and learn from the people who do not rush, but who take their time and allow themselves to be slow because that is when you will feel fulfilled. You have time to read that book, watch that movie, engage in a meaningful conversation with that friend you bumped into on the street. All of these experiences will allow you to flourish and develop into the most fulfilled version of yourself. Feelings of optimism will not come from a longing to prove yourself. They will come from lived experiences and the time you treasure.
When have you proven to yourself that you are not running out of time?
Liu, C., Ma, J. Social media addiction and burnout: The mediating roles of envy and social media use anxiety. Curr Psychol 39, 1883–1891 (2020)