The business of minding your own business
The other day I saw a post about one woman’s frustration at seeing other women be pampered by their sugar daddies rather than going out and getting “real” jobs and working for their money.
It was one of those posts that the social media spirits tell you to stay away from, but you still find yourself immersed in the comments section, typing ferociously and hitting the backspace button with vigor.
I said my piece and retreated, but followed the conversation closely, cringing at some of the remarks, slurs and insults hurled at commenters, sugar babies and sex workers all before asking myself one question:
Why does the poster care?
Followed by this more important question,
Why do I care?
I muted notifications for the post and went on with my day, having relearned the valuable lesson of minding my own business both online and in real life.
Social media makes it hard to ignore what everyone else is doing and ultimately cast our own judgment. The very thing that annoys most of us about social media is just how judgmental the landscape is, yet the entire basis of social media is very permissive of judgment and thrives on it.
Earlier this year, I compiled my frustrations about the judgment that came with getting pregnant out of wedlock into a post. The number one thing that had fuelled that post was the feeling of being judged by people who had no right to judge me. I found myself venting to others saying, “I don’t get it, if you think marriage before kids is mandatory you get married before you have kids, it has nothing to do with me.”
There were the words myself and so many of us needed to be reminded of when it came to being judged, whether online or in real life: It has nothing to do with me.
Often, judgment is either a reflection of our own insecurities, perhaps a way of deflecting attention away from our sore spots, other times it’s just a series of frivolous thoughts we have that we feel the need to voice or cast unto others.
The other day, I posted a status about how annoying it was that an increasing number of people on Instagram were taking advantage of the option that converted their profile to a business page and reflect them as a “public figure”.
Again, why did I care?
If Jenny from up the street wants to be a public figure on Instagram, what does that have to do with me? And how ironic was it that I was thrusting the people who I personally didn’t believe were public figures into the public spotlight?
Social media is an amazing thing that allows us to connect to people near and far, express our creativity and share our lives with one another. But in doing so, it also opens the door to judgment, scrutiny and a sleugh of other things that can truly be toxic to our understanding of others, and more importantly, ourselves.
We’ve seen it time and time again with people being bullied and inflicting self-harm, the murders livestreamed on social media, the videos of fights where people yell “Worldstar!” and jump at the chance to flash their faces in the camera of a video they know will go viral.
How we use social media is one of the biggest moral challenges of the century. It’s a test that many of us write, over and over again on a daily basis, our grade fluctuating everytime we hand it in.
Personally, I need to exercise more caution when using social media. I need to scroll past the posts, comments, statuses and photos I think are inappropriate or offensive rather than be the judge and jury. I need to focus more on my own digital appearance rather than scrutinizing and evaluating the online appearance of others. But most importantly, I need to shift all of the energy it takes to mindlessly scroll through timelines of photos and feeds of social updates and put that into seeing the beauty of the world around me, just outside that screen.