Finding what really matters: an essay on the online economy of sharing

I have a feeling that we live too much of our lives through other peopl’s eyes. It seems as if w’ve changed our definition of what is worthy and real to accommodate an economy based on the currency of sharing. It’s an economy that measures an event’s value by the number of likes and retweets it gets. An economy that changes our decision-making because we start to seek out the things that have the highest “sharing value”, while we shun the quiet, everyday activities that make up a life.

As I graze through my Facebook feed tonight, I munch on the extraordinary and exciting lives of others. A live performance in San Francisco. A hike in Cape Town. A business success in Miami. A funny and clever thing someon’s son said. And of course, the photos. The endless, happy photos of dancing, mountains, wine, exotic travels, more wine, and lots and lots of babies. Everyone is having an amazing time in an amazing world.

Twitter shows me something slightly different. I see people who are drowning in success and ambition, and I can’t help but envy them. Through Twitter I see how smart everyone else is. And as inspirational as that is most of the time, I sometimes look at how high the bar seems to be set and then I just want to sit down and rest for a while.

Everyone knows that’s not the whole story, of course. No one says “I’m lonely” on Twitter. No one uses Facebook to post their deep, dark thoughts about marriage or parenting or work or the future or the past. We all know it’s not real but we have to keep up the facade. If one of us were to break down, we would all lose the ability to believe we are who we pretend to be, and that’s not something w’re prepared to do.

Maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s time to stop consuming so much of other peopl’s perfectly manicured public lives, and start producing just a little bit more. I wonder what would happen if we measured the value of an activity not by how great the photo opportunity would be, but by what value it would add to those we’re with – our family and friends.

I guess I’m just worried that if I keep looking at my life through other peopl’s eyes, I might go blind to the things that really matter.