I used to wish that I lived in the ’90s. Everything I cherished, adored, and stanned for were from the ’90s: Ghost World, My So-Called Life, Sex and the City, Before Sunrise, Degrassi, plaid. Everything. Of course, my romanticized vision of that decade was influenced by the multitude of ’90s television shows, movies, and pop culture I consumed throughout my teenage years. In the media I consumed, everything seemed so much better, easier, simpler. But, the main thing that attracted me to the ’90s, aside from the fact that all my pop culture faves existed in that decade, was that social media did not exist.
I was talking to my sister recently and she asked me if I would attend my high school reunion. I immediately replied “no” because…what for? It wouldn’t be like in the ’90s where you’d spot Ashley at the mall, then squeal and hug each other because you hadn’t seen her since graduation 20 years ago. I still see my peers. On Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagram. What would we talk about that we already didn’t know from social media? I mean, I know what post-secondary school they attend, what job they have, and even what they had for lunch the other day.
And it’s this sense of hyper-connection, this sense of being plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that I wanted to escape from in my teenage years when I longed to live in the 1990s. I wanted to travel back to a time where you could meet a stranger on a train and instead of having your eyes glued to a screen, you’d strike a conversation, bond over shared interests and then wander the streets of Vienna talking about life. But as I’ve grown and matured, I realize that this yearning was a result of a very romanticized and narrow picture of the 1990s. These movies and shows only showed a facet of life. And these glimpses are questionable because, as we all know, the media does not have the best track record when it comes to depicting reality. Also, most of these media that I consumed were from the perspective of white, middle-class people. My experiences would definitely be a lot different in the 1990s as a black woman.
But… I have to admit, I still long for simpler times. Not necessarily the ’90s, or any other decade for that matter—I just long for a time when social media isn’t such a dominant part of my life. I’m constantly on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube—you name it. And it’s not always just for fun. Sometimes I need social media to interact with classmates about a group project or to communicate with colleagues for work purposes. It’s not just social media (although the majority of the time I spend on the computer is dedicated to it), it’s the Internet as a whole. I live on the Internet. My life is the Internet. In some ways, I love these spaces. These spaces have broadened and continue to broaden my social awareness and consciousness. I love being part of a community of feminists and womanists on Tumblr. I love reading my Twitter timeline on Thursday nights when Scandal is on television. I love that I can keep up with things that matter to me through my page feed on Facebook. And I love that YouTube introduced me to a variety of quality web series that feature people who look like me.
But social media, for all its perks and benefits, can also be very isolating. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can trick you into thinking that everyone is off in Hawaii living a fabulous life while you, the loser, sit in a darkly dimmed room watching them have the time of their lives on a 5” by 2” screen. In my daily life, I probably communicate with human beings 80% through social media and 20% through face-to-face interaction. This places me in a weird space where I feel as if I don’t have any authentic connections with people because our connections only exist in a “superficial” realm situated in the World Wide Web. And this creates, for me at least, a false sense of closeness, which can be very lonely and depressing.
I no longer wish to live in the ’90s but man, I sure love how Angela could just meet up with Rayanne and Rickie without having a million conversations about it beforehand on Facebook.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just a loser. But I can’t be the only one that feels this way… Right?