Mental Space Monday: How social media actually does make us happier

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. ― Anaïs Nin The Instagram Generation now experiences the present as an anticipated memory. Daniel Kahneman

An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't.  Anatole France

Welcome to Mental Space Monday

Where we dive down the rabbit hole of collective consciousness and submit to the whims of curiosity.

We have all heard the complaints (and probably contributed to them) that use of social media as a replacement for human connection only makes us all feel more distant and isolated. We know that there is no replacement for the face-to-face conversation, the genuine smile, the caring hug.

But what if social media has other benefits that we are not fully appreciating?

Social psychologist Daniel Kahneman talks about the fact that psychologically, the present is only 3 seconds long. After that it has already become the past. Just look at how many presents you have passed through while reading the beginning of this post...

In today's information age knowledge is at our fingertips. We can spend seconds on the web and find the square root of 841, the score of last year's Super Bowl and the population of Marrakech. Because this information is so readily available, we don't waste our time trying to save it within the "internal hard drive" of our brains.

Younger generations have realized the same about photos and as a result, about memories themselves. Our brains can only store so much. And we can only store it so accurately.  In contrast, "Once pieces of information are recorded on a computer’s hard drive, they will not change one bit over the years. But your own memories are totally different. Over the years, they will be continuously altered and reconstructed in response to changes in your moods or fleeting states of mind."

What savvy social media users have realized and embraced about this new technology is what Gallop and their famous Strengthsfinder test encourages us to do which is to focus on what we are good at and outsource what we aren't. In utilizing social media as a cloud-based memory album we are able to store all of this data in an unchanging, easily accessible collection, leaving our brains to do what we humans are extremely good at: actually experiencing, enjoying, living, loving and connecting.

Kids these days have already given up on shoeboxes full of old photos waiting to be organized in an album. They no longer worry about acid-free paper in their scrapbooks or even about forgetting their mental picture of that gorgeous day at the beach or the first day with their new puppy. All of these moments are embraced as they are happening in what Silva refers to as an anticipated memory. Kahneman says that there are 2 pieces of ourselves: the experiencing self and the remembering self. Because the present passes by us so quickly, memories of our life are all we get to keep.

In documenting experiences as they happen and outsourcing the data storage, we free the experiencing self to live in the moment free from worry that our remembering self can't retain each specific detail. Jason Silva says this allows us to "be the architects of our mental narrative." So that our present doesn't have to be lost to the past. Especially when we certainly don't have mental access to the moody Walden filter or the trendy Nashville frame effect. Tagging photos takes it even further and gives us the ability to actually visually share these memories with those who shared the moments. We have the instant ability to paste memories into their cloud-based albums so that and at a moment's notice, we can collectively connect to our feed/photos/albums and reminisce in living color much more accurately than we would ever be able to do if it were all stored by our 'remembering selves'. Now we can remember in painful detail how awful we look in a mullet...with legwarmers...and braces... ...all at the same time. (Thanks mom for posting that one that was likely better off without 32 megapixel scanned detail.)

So while some might say that we are a generation living 'on display' or sharing private moments in the public eye, I say we are a new society that wants to experience fully without worry that we will forget all of the moments. We courageously live more publicly, slightly obstructed by a camera lens so that we can reminisce more fully and make use of the on-going cloud-based memory album that is social media. If Kahneman is correct and memories are all we keep, my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter facilitated memories will be with me for a lifetime.


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Have a wonderful week, lovelies. Believe in your unique entelechy and actualize your wonderful.