I recently learned - via Instagram - that someone I know got engaged. That was followed by a clip of a toddler bathing in a bathtub, someone eating a tasty dessert, someone traveling to Indonesia, and someone drinking a cup of coffee at work.
These are highlights of people’s lives. It’s like watching only the best scenes of an actor’s career. It’s great entertainment - an uncomplicated series of images for me to consume. But they don’t really tell us who people are. These are cherry-picked moments from our lives that we share with followers to make people laugh or to gain recognition.
Like for the newly engaged person. I don’t know how they met their partner. I don’t know what their first dates were like, or how reached the decision to live with one another. I don’t know about the hard times or why they’re drawn to one another. There’s an entire story to that relationship that isn’t being told on Instagram.
Social media companies would like you to think you can tell your stories on their platforms. But the medium just isn’t right for it. Most of the time the stories told on social media are one-dimensional updates that lack nuance, context, and truth. They make for engaging tidbits about what people are doing in life, but they aren’t our life stories.
With people growing more and more skeptical of social media because of things like security concerns, reckless use of personal data, its addictive characteristics, nefarious spreading of false news stories, heavy influx of consumer marketing, and its overall obsession with personal branding, it proves that it’s an inappropriate medium for people to tell their most precious stories.
Our stories are best told offline. Private conversation is still the richest, most natural way humans communicate. And if we want to record our most sacred stories, an elegantly published book is most complete or having the audio in a digital file, CD, or vinyl album.
At that point, it's not about likes or clicks. Views or follows. Comments or hashtags. Just your story told your way, preserved for the people who matter most to you.