Who Are You?

"most of us are heavily influenced by our social environment"

Who Are You?
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin / Unsplash

You are who you associate with

This fundamental truth can lead you down all kinds of dark paths, considering those you surround yourself with and why. Proximity is an easy cause for association. So and so is family, a neighbor, a classmate, and so on—so we can strengthen our association more easily.

The family you choose

As children, we meet people with unique interests, perspectives, and life stories. We are afforded our first chance to decide who we associate with. That, too, is difficult, and we often need to challenge our principles and opinions along the way. Those first associations by choice are like tiny snowballs starting their journey down your life path, someday becoming an unstoppable avalanche of self-identity.

A few years ago, I started thinking of my associations, or my circle, like a car. There are only four seats, maybe five. Who would be in that car? It's not the same group all the time, but those who find a seat should be down for the ride. And the destination should be worth the trip.

Quality over quantity

Before social media and the internet, these concepts were more easily grounded. How many phone numbers could I remember? How many people would I be willing to sit and hand-write a letter to? How many friends' houses would I be willing to walk to? Who am I willing to ride the Greyhound bus to visit? The effort to maintain and pour into those associations, relationships, friendships, whatever - was not insignificant. And so, I think we were purposeful with who we kept in our circle. But it wasn't just about who we poured into. It was a matter of who was pouring into us.

To be clear, you can have a trash group of friends on a remote island as quickly as you can on Facebook. I think the ease, frequency, and severity of that influence goes much more unnoticed with the latter.

Like a snowball veering off course, rolling faster, growing bigger, and hurling itself at an unsuspecting bystander, that's me. That's you, flooded with unsolicited noise from people who don't necessarily want what's best for you.

What then does social media do?

"most of us are heavily influenced by our social environment"
Are You Caught in a Social Media Trap? - Freakonomics
Are You Caught in a Social Media Trap? - Freakonomics

You don't have to acknowledge it for it to be true. We've seen it countless times. The 20 photos at varied angles, the filters, the perfect hashtag, and don't forget to @ the venue for maximum exposure. What you say, what you do, and how you do it - is shaped by everyone and everything that shows up in your feed, everyday. That's a lot of influence. And that feed, as much as you try to curate and shape it - is made for you by someone who doesn't want what is best for you.

That is an objective take. There isn't a single successful social media platform that aims for you, dear reader, to be a better person in any way.

Not all bad, but not all good

I used Instagram most when I started CrossFit. I wanted to see inspiration, get tips, and find like-minded people. Three years later, I was in the best shape of my life, but my feed had grown inauthentic. Everyone was trying to be an influencer. There were brand cliques and cults. Comments grew more snarky than celebratory. The frequency of posts ballooned, and the value dwindled. I wasn't sharing in moments of pride; I was consuming a nonstop feed of human activity that served capitalism more than my soul.

So, I abandoned the platform, except for sharing posts from my family or posting my digital proof of life while traveling abroad.

I guess all I'm saying is, don't be trapped. Get in, get out. It's even ok to visit from time to time. I've been visiting Instagram for a couple of weeks. But today, I'm uninstalling the app for the hundredth time because I've spent more time swiping this week than reading or writing, and that's pretty disgusting.