I Hate Social Media (and other thoughts as I plan my wedding.)
It is Sunday morning. Capone, my aging dog and nonjudgmental companion, is sleeping at my feet. Spotify acoustic mix is playing. I was supposed to go rock climbing with a good friend, which would have been the first bit of physical activity I have done in months, but she is feeling ill. Instead, I sit here, 19 days away from my own wedding, reflecting on all the craziness that the last year has brought and the journey ahead. I have no real agenda, other than to eat the partially stale day-old bagel in front of me, and to document (i.e. ramble) the thoughts in my head as others may either benefit from it, find it amusing, or at least click on this link, which makes Google happy.
First and most importantly, your first decision is your most important decision, always. I tell my students this all of the time and I am now living it and seeing the truth behind this insight again and again. The idea behind this is that, your first decision influences or sets a path for many future decisions. Becky and I decided to move to Royal Oak. Decision #1. That has triggered a whole slew of other decisions. Everything from buying new furniture because our old furniture didn’t fit to slowing down and going for nightly walks with Capone (because for some reason, my yard is no longer worthy of his daily business. I love this dog, but he is weird and has us trained I feel.) Another first decision, marrying Becky. I don’t need to tell any other married couple what I am already getting insight into: the person you marry is probably the most important decision of your life. (Perhaps that is why it took me so long.) Being engaged to her has already influenced so many other decisions. Now that I think about it, there is a country station pre-programmed in my radio now that I don’t remember being there. It will be interesting to see where life takes us and the difference between expectations and reality for the future. Speaking of which… I hate social media.
I hate social media. If you didn’t click that little “x” in the corner of your screen after reading that, thank you! We are probably friends 🙂 Perhaps I should say it this way, I hate social media in its current state. The gap between expectation and reality is so wide, social media just amplifies this. I read all of the time about building your personal brand online using social media. A lot of the successful photographers out there share these perfectly curated and rehearsed moments, poses, and laughs that go online that they are misleading their followers. It is like they have created and follow this equation of being perfectly imperfect, relatable, yet unattainable. Their life has become a brand. It is disgusting. Don’t believe me? Go see how many of them mention God, country music, their love of some sort of junk food, travel, and being a “coffee addict” in their bio. The gap between expectation and reality leaves everyone on the outside scratching their heads and feeling inadequate. If I were to document a day in my life, it would be so lack luster and mundane – 4:30 a.m. wake up, walk the dog, download NPR Marketplace, drive to school, tutor kids at 6:30 a.m., teach/entertain, tell kids to get off their cell phones 35 times, try to photobomb a student’s Snap, classes dismissed, grade papers, leave work at 3:30 p.m., head home, emails, edit, attempt to cook dinner, Becky arrives, dinner, edit, walk Capone, email, bed. There is no gym time or full-length sweaty selfies in the gym mirror, perfectly decorated foam latte, tapas happy hour with friends, or Boomerang clinking of wine glasses in a dimly lit restaurant with a votive candle on the table. Why I hate social media.
Maybe I am losing at the Instagram game, but what I am winning at, I feel, is life. What is real to me are the everyday moments that Becky and I share, embrace, and recall fondly. We spent a lot of time, energy, and emotion building our own little world that we love living in and are protective of. I am even surprising myself right now as I am writing about her as this was not the case before we were engaged. (Shout out to Olivia, a memorable former student who figured it all out and hounded me anytime I told a story in class.) In fact, the first time we ever appeared together on social media was the day I proposed to her. (In case you missed it, I photographed my own proposal.)
Social media shouldn’t be spent trying to convince others of how awesome your life is. Go build an authentic and awesome life for yourself first that is so good, so fulfilling, that every moment of everyday is a constant fulfillment of purpose and an everlasting spring of happiness that you don’t need to document it. It isn’t a planned highlight reel with 25 attempts to get the perfect image to share, but rather something that is so special to you that you handle it with kid gloves because you don’t ever want to lose it or ruin it. Can we all agree to use social media to spread the good in the world? How nice would it be to go on Facebook and read about stories that restore the faith in humanity?
So why the long rambling about social media? Because it has not only invaded but also influenced the one day that is so special and even sacred, the one day where you should be totally and completely present in the moment: your wedding day. Social media and weddings are so married (no pun intended, okay, maybe a little) that you can actually hire people to live tweet your wedding! How ridiculous! Who? What? Why? Smh. People and their desire to so share their experiences miss out on actually living and remembering the moment as it is happening. Don’t believe me, check out the science behind it. (Here is another good article.) That is why I love this photo:
That old lady is my hero. She looks so happy and content with just the experience of the moment. Why I hate social media.
For me: no wedding hashtag, no cameras during the ceremony, and maybe even no cell phone on the wedding day (although I do want to be able to answer calls in case anything happens.) As a groom, I want to see my wife and just enjoy and experience the moment, not the back of 35 different cell phone as people leaning into the aisle and are trying to snap a photo that I will never see nor ever print.
(I actually took this photo. I wondered what Marina thought as she saw a bunch of black rectangles instead of the faces of people that she loves.)
Ultimately, social media, how you use it and your relationship with it, is a personal choice. What I have observed is that less is more.
On the topic of personal choices…your wedding is a personal choice! Make it your own! Weddings are stressful. Planning a wedding is stressful. When Becky and I got engaged, I suggested we have a super small and intimate ceremony with just immediate family and a few friends, followed by a private room at one of our favorite restaurants, an amazing meal, and an amazing photographer to capture the day (first look, formals, fun, and then ceremony/dinner). We could have had the thing planned in three months at a third of the cost. The economist in me wanted to take the money we would spend on the wedding, put it into a brokerage account and invest it so, on average, we could vacation somewhere once a year into perpetuity. This, I argued, would be far better for our marriage than just a single day. I lost.
While we are still having a smaller wedding (150ish), nearly everyone there is family. I envy the people who do a wedding their way. After shooting weddings for nine years, I have noticed one obvious truth: the couples who plan their wedding according to their personalities seem to enjoy the wedding day more. Another obvious truth that I really hope someone listens to and takes to heart is this: it is far better to focus on building a solid marriage than a gorgeous wedding. You are going to spend a year or so planning this one event. During that time, make sure you are spending an equal amount of energy planning your future. Becky and I did our best with blending planning and date nights. Anytime we met with a vendor, signed a contract, picked table linens, or chose first dance songs, we would celebrate by going out to dinner, sitting and talking with each other, our thoughts, our plans, dreams, and even fears for our future. I am not saying we do everything right (just ask her and I am sure she can produce a quick list of all the things I do wrong) or have everything figured out, but I will say that if we didn’t have a wedding, we would be just as happy. Why I hate social media.
One last string of thoughts as my coffee is getting cold. I am excited for the wedding. I think it is going to be a gorgeous affair. What I am excited for most, in case you are wondering:
and you know what I am looking forward to the most, which I think is telling and representative of us…
I think that is going to be one of the best memories of the day because it reminds me of all of the Friday nights we spend together during college after I would drive home three hours to see her. I would pick up my brother and the three of us would go to Coney for a baby Greek salad, chili cheese fries, rice pudding, grilled pita, and an omelette. Don’t judge. Secondly, it is symbolic of what we really need in life, which is, not much. Just each other.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I will let you know how the coney is.