The Social Media Narrator

life Nov 20, 2020

Does anyone else pick up on the social media narrator in their head?

I mean, the somewhat funny, trying to be witty, self-absorbed and self-deprecating voice that is editing real-world reality into social media reality?

Dinner conversations. Kelly is asking why the moon exists. Why do moons exist in general? Because we need cheese. Bad dad jokes. Somewhere in here, there’s a humorous Facebook post.

My monkey mind and I realized some years ago that meditation might be a good thing. So I started Headspace. Which, in truth, is quite awesome. Throw in a little Sam Harris, and you begin to understand the peculiar narrative discourse always yammering in the background.

Ikea. Why is Ikea Successful? Why do my wife and I keep shopping there? Who came up with this idea? Oh, wait, someone else has already done this social media narration.

I’ve gotten better at listening and recognizing the yammering. What disturbs me is how acutely I’ve started to hear “social media narrator” me articulate clear thoughts. That me is a me now. It wasn’t a me before.

A former student posts a crazy conspiracy theory. I find myself rewinding back to 2007. I’m teaching a class and running a discourse with them about Enlightenment values and truth being objective. The social media narrator tries to link the past with the present with a person I really don’t have any relationship with (nor intend to).

This pandemic has only fed fuel to the fire of the narrative. Life is constricted. I work from home. My kids are doing school from home. I leave the house for groceries. Sometimes I forget to comb my hair or put on shoes. Social interaction is 100% digital. Through a monitor. A screen. A phone call. Not bad, but limited in extending the narrative of what I want life to reflect.

Night conversations as a family. Sharing what we’re learning. Me: “I’ve started reading this incredible book. It’s called Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change Our minds, And Shape our Futures. It’s a book about trying to understand a kingdom of organisms that support life!”

Across the room: “Uggh, Papi, why do you need to talk about orgasms right now!?”

Social Media Narrator Me: “Oh, there’s a funny post.”

Usually, I tell the narrator to shut up. Usually, it listens. Sometimes it pivots to private family texts (where it really should live - with people who will forgive you for stomping on edges).

Whoa. Peanut Butter Chex + Chocolate Chex creates a Reese’s-Like Gluten-Free breakfast experience. I wonder how many other Celiacs know about this incredible combination?

Social media narrator me edits. A lot. It doesn’t necessarily know what it’s editing towards (that lies beneath the surface as well - yet another reason for meditation), but I sense patterns. Indeed, somewhere in those edits, I might find glimmers of wisdom, as it hints at levels of self-deception. There’s this quote from Dostoyevsky:

A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others.

Social media lets us lie to ourselves. It’s actually a feature (because the incentive is attention, and lies grab attention faster than truth), and not a bug.

I see edits everywhere on social media.

A rough night. Screaming, yelling, hurt words, anxiety and panic, and all manner of human fallibilities. But then my daughter is drying her tears (and her snot) on my sweatshirt. The storm has passed. I am holding her tight, sitting the coach, kissing the top of her head and murmuring, “I love you no matter what”. I snap a selfie. The caption will say something like “cuddle time with Papi”. Or perhaps a slightly more profound narration on the joys and struggles of fatherhood and adoptionhood.

The narrative gets read. And that’s part of the reason why I don’t leave. Is it a substitute for actual human interaction? Maybe. But certainly harder to be judgmental during Covid-19.

As with everything in life, I’m simply (haha - simply) trying to embrace a degree of truth. The narrator is there. It is part of me. I should listen (we all listen), but listen as one listens to a story. It’s a story we tell the world. And, as with many stories, it has shades of meaning.

I’m writing a narration about the social media narrative in my head. Narratives of narratives.

Time to meditate.

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