Has social media deleted humanity from millennials?

Being a millennial means having instant information and opportunities at the tip of our fingers. It means discovery of career-changing fields of research via a simple Google search. It means freedom to plan vacation itinerary via Google Maps the day upon arrival to a foreign city. It means cultivation of friendships throughout the world via Facebook. It means knowledge of French mannerisms and cultural norms via Netflix. It means fluency in Spanish profanity via Spotify. It means creation of sourdough bread from scratch via a 5-minute YouTube video. It means inspiration to gracefully kick into a picturesque yogi handstand via Instagram. Yet existence as a millennial in this digital age also means domination by an era in which superficiality, addiction to consumption, uncontrollable time depletion, hate speech, anonymous bullying, and overt discrimination against all walks of life each flow freely via any and every media airway. It may be high time to admit that our consumer generation has been consumed by social media when we begin to judge individual self-worth by our ability to collect Facebook friends over nurturance of authentic human relationships; our talent at
obsessively documentation of our lives down to the last pumpkin spice latte over creation of invaluable actual memories; our superior prowess in rattling off obligatory political posts so seemingly sophisticated that they need not be fact-checked, proof-read, or policed for vocabulary potential for offensive misinterpretation over sharing of our meaningful, well-reflected expressions of personal thought with the world; or our aptness at fitting that perfect photo rinse to highlight our fitted Lululemon yoga pants that snugly hug our leg, outstretched into a tree mirror selfie pose over our capacity to truly practice yoga on and off the mat.

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Ditching digital dependency is not a blanket solution to generational bliss, but it can be liberating, leading to new genuine adventure. This is a lesson that I learned in my former dual summer pursuit of scholarly proficiency in the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail (yes, it was an actual research project) and mastery of the #stopdropandyoga Instagram 5-minute craze. On the momentous day of my visitation to Kite Hill Winery, the last on my list of these twelve wineries, I was also determined to capture the ultimate yoga photo amidst the verdant deciduous forest trails that surrounded my hometown. Energized, I set off with my essentials: my iPhone, my Lululemon yoga pants, and my faithful photographer and designated driver (aka my younger brother who had been shamelessly bribed into both roles). From the passenger seat, I quickly spouted out directions to our destination. Fifty minutes of air guitar and off-key Strokes lyrics later, I realized that by some freak accident called Apple Maps, that we had been driving in the opposite direction of the actual winery as my chauffer pulled his worn-down Ford Escape into the barnyard driveway of an unsuspecting resident of the teeny township of Dongola, Illinois.

After skidding out of the driveway for take two of our search for Kite Hill, I broke out my girl scout compass and we verified our progress by the direction of moss on the rocks – or at least that’s how navigating without a wise iPhone felt. Several wrong turns, a bit of luck, and unending air guitar later, we arrived at a trail marked with an arrow that read “Kite Hill”. We squeezed our vehicle down a narrow gravel road, which unnoticeably transitioned to a grass-laden track before imperceptibly morphing into fields of growing grapevines. Beyo
nd the transparent tops of the fertile fruit, we faced a back porch full of afternoon wine-drinkers, whose faces were contorted into confusion with wondering eyes that squinted at our frozen, startled expressions. Evidently, we had taken another wrong turn and were cruising our unauthorized old clunker through the vineyard, in full visibility of Kite Hill customers. “Back. Away. Slowly,” were my insightful navigational instructions, whispered below the top-volume Black Keys guitar solo.  Dylan cranked his head backwards to speed away in reverse, squishing fallen grapes that lay sprawled along the path.

undolg3cWhere we ended our short afternoon winery visit-turned never-ending daytrip was not where we had intended as we subsequently incoherently stumbled our car down a pathway to Pomona Natural Bridge, a short nature trail that encircles a structurally bonding beauty of rock formation. From sheer virtue of living off the digital map, we came home to a haven of natural charm so striking that even the most basic Warrior II pose became an artful masterpiece of #stopdropandyoga. And yet, in this moment, I did not think about building my miniscule Instagram fan-base, nor did I dream of enhancing my #yogabooty with my favorite rinse. Instead, I cherished the authentic experience of exploration off the grid that I had shared with my obedient brother.

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I am first to admit that I, like many other millennials, have been a chewed-up and spit-out victim of social media. Yet while dancing joyously through yoga poses on Pomona Natural Bridge, I felt that I had become a social media survivor, set to share authentic inspiration instead of meaningless items of artificial half-thought. What if we all made an undaunted commitment to use social media for ameliorating rather than killing humanity? What if we dared to live off of the social media map every now and then? What if we had the audacity to reveal our genuine stories and lessons-learned that might lie beneath our superficial selfies? What if we had the boldness to use social media only to inspire solidarity – to build bridges, not walls? Perhaps then with this collective valiant courage, we could inspire a humanity of greater good.

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