By Ashley Jones-Quaidoo
“Good morning . . . going out shopping today . . . going to ‘turn up’ tonight”—this is what I see as I scroll through my Twitter timeline almost everyday.
Growing up in the 21st century, a lot has changed. Because of technology, we have become too obsessed with our own lives, and in the process we have lost a broader sense of responsibility to the rest of the world.
In the last 10 years, social media has gained momentum. The famous phrases “What’s on your mind?” or “Compose new tweet” have become a phenomenon, often leading people to babble on about themselves. Conversations that take place on social media vary, but far too many of them have one crucial thing in common: the subject of focus is always “me” and what it is that “I” want or need.
People want to talk about the color of their hair and the new shoes they’re going to buy once they get paid. Meanwhile, there is the constant competition to gain followers on Twitter and likes on Instagram. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—is promoting narcissistic values in our society.
As a generation, we live exclusively in the present. We fail to think about our future and we forget about our past. I can guarantee you that as I am typing this, someone is tweeting about what has happened to them or how she’s feeling at the moment. But what about our history? What about our future? Do we care?
Learning about history helps us realize just how frivolous our own trivial problems are. Yet history is being crowded out as we increasingly focus on the present—and on ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, we are teenagers. Talking about trivial, personal things is normal and sometimes we all need “me” time. There’s nothing wrong with using Facebook or Twitter to debate whether the Redskins or the Cowboys are better (though we all know the answer to that one—Cowboys!). But imagine how much more meaning our lives will have if we pay a bit more attention to the rest of the world.
We need to spend less time posting and tweeting about ourselves and more time doing other things—like reading. Granted, with the fast-paced lives we live, it can be hard to pick up a book and read. Last week, I listened to Jeff Nunokawa, an English professor at Princeton University. Nunokawa made an interesting point: He emphasized our rush—our rush to get things done, our rush to be here and there, our rush that hinders our mind.
“I urge you to just slow down and take a moment to read, even if it’s just a paragraph,” Nunokowa told SJP students. “Just read.”
Reading and learning is fundamental: It prevents us from forgetting about the rest of the world.
I challenge everyone not just to read more, but to become active members of society. Volunteer in organizations that you care about and dedicate yourself to an issue that is meaningful to you. Complain a bit less when things don’t go your way—and don’t complain about politicians not doing their jobs or the lack of resources in our communities if instead of using your voice to talk about politics, you are using it to talk about yourself.
We must stop the obsession with ourselves. It is time for us to become responsible for our world and start to care because at the end of the day, we have to live here. And we will have to deal with the ramifications that come with the obsession over “me.”