In The Wizard of Oz, the Yellow Brick Road leads travelers to Oz’s official imperial capital, Emerald City. There, waiting, is the great and powerful Oz – the charlatan wizard purported to have the ability to grant wishes. But, as you know, this large and loud mystic was just a facade for a man trying to cover up his own feelings of inadequacy and unimportance.
I believe sometimes we travel along a yellow brick road, a designated path we’ve etched out for ourselves, leading surely to our dreams – all that we hope for and strive to achieve. At the end of the path is our proclaimed Emerald City, where we’re convinced we’ll find people, of high integrity and ability, waiting to grant us our vision of how our life should be, to offer us what’s missing in our life, to make us whole and complete. We will have arrived. Life will be easy and we will be important alongside the important people.
Then the curtain comes crashing down. We begin to see more clearly as we get closer to this seemingly magical place with magical people.
Along the same path, from a distance, our views of situations, of people, of life can look quite different than what we find when we become intimate with the details.
If we put some popular social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) through an Emerald City filter, what do we find?
In my experience, I’ve found lots of ways to compare my life, and who I am, with the people I follow on these accounts. I’ve found reasons to feel like I’m not on the right path, that I’m not achieving what others seem to have achieved with ease and panache. I’ve found wizards, myself included. Whether it’s through conscious or subconscious motives, a lot of our online personas are one-dimensional. We expose our “highlight-reel” – offer it up to the world as a look-at-who-we-are-and-what-we’re-up-to.
But how much of that is real? How much of our social media content actually offers a true sense of ourselves and our lives? How much is staged? How much is a cover for a reality of pain, loneliness, inadequacy, emptiness? How much is exposed to gain approval, affection, and an opportunity to get noticed?
I have also found social media outlets to be a superb way to stay connected with wonderful, amazing people. I love these people who share moments that make me smile, laugh and even cry. I love the words of encouragement, links to articles, blogs and the like, that intrigue and educate me. That is the draw for me. I have friends and family around the world, and social media affords me a way to stay connected with them.
There has been much debate about the psychology behind our quite public generation. There are negatives and positives, pros and cons, being discussed on putting ourselves on display. Is sharing snippets of ourselves and the people we’re with, what we’re doing, our passions, our opinions, our likes and dislikes, improving our lives and drawing us closer while broadening our perspectives? Or, does it leave us feeling empty, lonely, inadequate? Is it contributing to attention addictions and super-egos? Is it taking us away from our own lives, stealing away our opportunities to live in the moment, shifting our focus to the lives of others through our computers and phones?
These questions could be answered differently for each of us. I ask them of myself to explore my motives, to expose potentially unmet needs that I’m looking to fill through social media.
Admittedly, I post frequently on Instagram. Most of my posts are moments I find especially poignant in one way or another, and most likely include my children. I post them as a sort of online photo diary to share with my friends and family; but more than that, I post them for myself.
I frequently look through this chronological record of my life with smiles and tears. I look back on moments that I’m so glad to have a visual reminder of. I guess I could do this in a more private way, but I rationalize the public sharing as a way to keep me connected to the ones I love, or to potentially bring a smile to someone else in doing so.
I know I appreciate it when I see posts from others that offer encouragement, a laugh, or a glimpse at people who I’m missing from far away. It enriches my life in many ways.
I have made 2015 my year to be more authentic, to grow spiritually, to learn more about myself from all of my experiences and the world in which I live. Exploring what’s beyond the proverbial Yellow Brick Road and the illusive Emerald City, into truth and authenticity, is part of this process.