Talks with Mama T

Today, Mama T and I were typing each other the usual jokes between colleagues who also happen to be friends –

“Did you see this article?”
“How about this funny picture?”
“I could listen to Adele all day.”

Then, out the blue, T asks me what are the worst reality TV shows in my opinion.

As I began to boil water for my ‘just-my-opinion’ cuppa, I asked, “Well, what do you mean worst? Worst as in most horrifying or most pointless?”

“Either, both. I have to write a paper for my class about it, and I’m drawing a blank.”

After naming a few of the most standout culprits – Keeping up the Kardashians, Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, Are you Hot (you get the idea) – I made the comment that I thought all of the shows that make love/relationships game show fodder (The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Temptation Island, Rock of Love, ad nauseum) were probably the most psychologically damaging to the collective mindset of America. These shows are astonishingly bad at depicting anything beyond shallow and immature ideas about simple connection between two people, much less love or healthy relationship dynamics.

Mama T chimed in, “Exactly. Do you know the Marriage at First Sight show? How in the heck did these people think that would be a good idea, that it would work?”

I replied, “Well, there are several issues with the concept of the show, namely that these people are fundamentally unprepared for marriage or a life-long commitment with anyone, much less someone that they didn’t choose. They have been raised on the same media diet as the rest of us, butterflies, bubbles, champagne, and sexy fireplaces. As most married couples will tell you, that definitely is not the overarching theme of daily life. In addition, they are entering into an arranged marriage when they themselves do not believe in or honor the concept of arranged marriages. To make matters even more complicated, a traditional arranged marriage serves more than just the couple that are being wed – it serves their families, their communities, local economies, etc. – arranged marriages are arranged for the best benefit, not for love. The marriage is bigger than the couple and is grounded in something far bigger than just their present wants and needs. Those who have grown up in a culture that regularly practices arranged marriage (this is not the same thing as child-brides/grooms), do not hold the same view of marriage as those of us from a culture that does not practice this tradition and even judge it as distasteful and antiquated. It offends that individualistic mentality that we have been cultivated to preserve and tout from birth onwards. This is not to say that arranged marriages or un-arranged marriages are better or worse, just that they are born of different cultural mindsets and that taking someone of one cultural mindset and transplanting them into a foreign cultural practice will prove challenging.”

I know. I talk a lot.

Mama T said, “That’s actually a really great point. I am going to use that in my paper. I have to do one on the negative effect that social media is having on our relationships next so that is going to be interesting too.”

“I said don’t even get me started.”

She said, “Girl. Please – let’s hear it.”

Well, *cracks knuckles*:

1) Because it creates false communication – essentially where one or both parties think that communication has taken place, but it hasn’t. Either because the message is misinterpreted (hard to accurately read tone via text – most people are not skilled authors) or assuming that because you tagged someone in something that that is sufficient information/discussion on the matter.
2) It makes avoidance/ghosting terribly easy to do. When you can just dump someone over a Facebook message for instance, there is less incentive to discuss a problem or try to work things out because you don’t have to confront the person. If you are just too scared to end a relationship/friendship, all you have to do is delete them from your social media accounts, block their number and you are done.
3) I would argue that social media not only facilitates infidelity (private messaging, etc.) but in fact helps promote it. Back in the day, you married the boy/girl down the street because that was who you knew, that was who was available in your experience of the world, and that was enough. Nowadays, social media is flooding people with a plethora of options in terms of partners – so when things get bumpy or you get anxious or scared because of internal things that need to be explored, instead of taking accountability and working through something with your partner, you can just go “well there are so many other options out there, if I was with someone else I wouldn’t feel this way. My partner must not be ‘the one’ for me.”
4) It fosters a propensity to remain immature in our emotional development. Users become so obsessed with the external image that they are projecting to the world and to others that it’s a small step into disappointment and depression and anxiety when real life doesn’t match up to the glossy, photo-shopped, clean-ness of social media.
5) Social media also damages relationships because it doesn’t provide people with a realistic view of relationships. We’ve become a culture that is so ashamed to admit to our personal issues (which are far more common than we allow ourselves to realize), that we have no basis for growth. We compare ourselves to each other in all the wrong ways – he’s fitter, she’s thinner, they look so happy. Instead of being able to reach out and actually speak with someone else about the nitty-gritty dirty stinky side of life.
6) It quite simply is a distraction. It mimics the human element, but completely fails to actually provide it. It’s mental junk food – we think we are getting what we need because we feel full, but we are actually horribly malnourished because there is no substance. We aren’t going to church or to dance halls or book clubs or crafting circles to meet new people and have that human element in our lives (where the real nourishment and growth comes in), we are saying ‘oh – well I have 500+ friends on facebook and 750 twitter followers so I clearly have a great network going in my life.’ In reality, it means we are becoming sedentary and retarded (in the correct usage of the word) in our ability to develop actual communication and people skills.
7) (And last one), by spending time absorbed in social media, we are ruining our relationships because of how it is affecting our health. If you are sitting around on your phone or your computer all the time, you aren’t exercising, probably aren’t eating correctly, and that makes it dangerously easy for depression and anxiety to creep in simply because we aren’t moving around enough. Additionally, staring at computer screens and phone screens disrupts the sleep cycle and that again agitates mental productivity and can alter brain chemistry. If you aren’t functioning to your best level physically and mentally, there’s no way your relationships with others won’t suffer.

“Damn. You just wrote my whole paper.”

“Eh – there you go.”

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