Being Closer

Calvin Dong
4 min readAug 22, 2017

It’s been a long time since I’ve published fiction. Guess that isn’t changing whoops

Been thinking a lot about social media recently. I remember the first time I used Facebook, it was the most enthralling thing I’ve ever done. My friends and I were all banned from using it (you know, typical Asian parents) and we all decided to get a joint one on Halloween. I filled out my information, put my age as 23, and sat in my friend’s basement watching the screen load as I clicked Sign Up.

My first reaction? What is this. I saw, well nothing really, except a little banner telling me to add friends so I’d actually get to see something. We all added each other.

The first thing I did was send a chat; I wrote “hi adam” and told my friend to go upstairs to the other computer and see if it appeared.

“YO DID YOU SEE IT?”

“YEAH I GOT IT”

It was super magical, seeing computers communicate like that. All I had before was text messaging, and the only thing I knew about that was something to do with cell towers.

The next year was filled with pure joy, honestly. We all saw Facebook as a shiny new toy, and we posted statuses almost every day, commented on all of our friends’ pictures, and got infinite satisfaction from using it. Deep down, Facebook enabled us to be better friends. It helped us stay connected even when we weren’t together. When friends left for vacation, what stayed were the chat boxes and the Wall posts.

Then we got older, hundreds and thousands more friends added, and Facebook lost its luster. Almost everyone stopped posting statuses. Pictures became much more infrequent as well. Most people I knew stopped posting altogether.

So the active, engaged, community of my friends that used to be what made Facebook such a joy to use wasn’t there anymore, and we were all relegated to mindlessly scrolling through News Feed to see what was left. When I think of Facebook now, that’s still the majority of what I do.

I think it’s the role of a social network to enable and harmonize relationships. It’s easy to forget that as social networks are so effortlessly self-validating and add features to make it easier. When’s the last time someone asked you to like their profile picture? When’s the last time someone commented about the number of likes their Instagram photo got? And more importantly; when we were kids, and used Facebook every day to get the same feelings as we did from hanging out in person, did we care at all about any of that?

I want to go back to the way it used to be. I want to feel joy and fun when I use my phone, not fomo and mild jealousy. I think it is possible, if we can use social media with the same playfulness we did when we started.

Back then, we really did not care. We didn’t care how people would perceive the things we did on social media. It was purely for the sake of socializing with our friends. Shouldn’t it feel the same way now?

The pinnacle of social media is a universal value-added statement. That people get value from consuming, and people get value from sharing. Right now everything feels incredibly skewed towards the sharing perspective (I doubt anyone gets much value out of seeing tags of other people in memes). I can’t speak for everyone, so here’s what I’m doing to fix that.

Post more dumb shit. Like banal and everyday stuff. When I’m reading through old statuses and our middle school years, yes they’re cringe, but they’re also whimsical and nonchalant and effortlessly funny. When the filter of caring so much about appearances is gone, that makes every experience that much more authentic.

Snapchat is my favorite social media app by far. First of all, the entire app is about nonchalance and playfulness (disappearing content, the filters, etc) and it all seems calculated for us to use it the way social media was intended to be. I’ve felt more close to people who I’m Snapchat friends with, because I can see their everyday adventures, and plenty of people have messaged me after seeing my story with “oh!! I’ve been there!!” or “That restaurant looks so good, what’s it called?” And wasn’t that the point of social media in the first place? To make people more connected and closer?

It’s also important to me to not buy into the self-validation that these apps have. I deleted Instagram from my phone because frankly I find it extremely difficult to use Instagram and not ever care about my likes or who’s liking my pictures. I only use it online, when I remember to check it. For Snapchat too, I don’t check who looks at my story anymore. It makes it easier to post things that might be too dumb even with lowered standards.

Anyways, at the end of the day, I don’t want to have negative feelings when I use social media, because that defeats the purpose of it entirely. And if you’ve ever felt that twinge of “Dang, my post only got 30 likes” ever in your life you know what that feels like. Here’s to realer experiences :)

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