The Joneses Aren’t Keeping Up With Anyone

We are saturated. There are twelve different ways to watch TV, four mediums that allow you to receive emails, and push notifications to make sure you don’t miss a single “look what I cooked tonight” picture from the Twitterverse and Instagramers.

Admittedly, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my phone (despite advice to the contrary – highly recommend this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/13/1-thing-successful-people-dont-do_n_4769272.html). Call it a vice. Call it a knee-jerk reaction. Whatever it is, it sets the tone for the rest of my day – that, of which I’m keenly aware. I justify it by telling myself that I want to be prepared for the type of day I think I’m going to have. Ten emails from work detailing a mini-crisis that occurred at 4am tells me a I better have an extra bowl of Wheaties. Waking up to news that Taye and Idina split…. not sure how that’s going to affect my day, but I did grab an extra kleenex.

Whether this habit is good or bad isn’t really my point. I do it. So, after waking up and combing through my phone to make sure Kimye is still in tact, I proceed to get ready and hop on a train to the city. At this point, I have a no-cell phone rule. It is (and this is not an exaggeration) the one time of the day where I force myself to stay off my phone. I don’t text; I don’t tweet; I don’t answer emails. Why I’ll do it first thing in the morning but not on the train, I can’t say. But this is the boundary I’ve established for myself. I know that I’m taking the train into SaturationVille, and considering I work in media, the impact is ten-fold. I don’t allow myself to be saturated on the train.

So my technology-less hour ends, and that’s it – we’re off to the races. From the moment my workday starts, I’m inundated with mass messaging – literally. Our television is on all day. I’m fielding emails. I’m watching Twitter (believe it or not, this helps me do my job better). I’m texting and calling. I’m awash in sales pitches in the form of commercials and sponsored Tweets and media messages coded in top ten lists and best dressed pics. I’m not complaining – I love it. I work in an exciting, fast-paced, high-energy, albeit sometimes volatile industry. It thrills me. I learn something new everyday because I’m forced to stay on top of what’s happening in the world – politically and fashionably.

I’m saturated. So what’s the issue? I’m learning. I’m having a great time. I’m setting my own (perhaps puny) boundaries. It’s working. The issue is not that we’re saturated – this is the world we live in and I’m not suggesting anyone try to change it. There’s a lot to be gleaned from it. The issue is when this saturation stops making us aware and starts making us compare.

I think it’s an exciting time to be alive. Technology is advancing and some guy just invented the cronut. The world has become so much smaller since the 1950’s. My mom recounts stories of expensive long distance phone calls from Michigan to Illinois. Today, I can actually video-chat with my dad while he’s working in Saudi Arabia – thanks, Steve Jobs. It’s incredible when you think about it. But this access is only good until we start letting it make us insecure.

Celebrities used to be far away mythical creatures that you got to see a few times a year in his or her latest film. Now, thanks to cable, social media, and Kanye’s new music video, I’m seeing more of Kim Kardashian than I should probably see in an entire lifetime.

My family comes from the Christian part of Lebanon. However, many of our Lebanese friends are Muslim. They’ve explained their personal reasoning behind women wearing hijabs – you don’t desire what you don’t see.

I can’t speak to the truth of this specific rationale because as I said, I’m not Muslim. But it’s an interesting thought: you don’t desire what you don’t see. If you don’t know it exists, do you desire it? If you didn’t know that Kanye gave Kim 1,000 roses for V-Day (which, I definitely, obviously don’t know), would you desire it? If you didn’t hear the mass messaging that florals and pastels are in for spring, would you be inclined to rush out and buy them?

Social media allows us to create our ideal selves. It allows mass messaging of what’s cool, what happening, what’s exciting, and what’s not. We’re saturated – and it’s okay, until we start comparing. Because once we start comparing, we get off track. We lose ourselves. We stop trying to be what we’re meant to be and we start trying to fit into a mold. That old saying, “you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses” – the Joneses being some wildly successful couple who lets the world know it by Instagramming and Tweeting their every move. Let me tell you something: the Joneses – they’re not trying to keep up with anyone.

The reason the Joneses got to be the Joneses is because they used their awareness of the world and themselves to create their own success. They weren’t trying to imitate or copy. They didn’t replicate. They may not have even seen Glamour magazine’s Spring 2014 Most Wearable Fashion trends. They’re the original, authentic Joneses.

We’re saturated. And it’s not a bad thing. There is something to be learned everyday. Social media – I look at it as a wellspring of inspiration. We have the ability to share our ideas and findings globally – that’s exciting. But we need to use these tools to grow each other – not measure each other. That’s when we stop using them well. When we start keeping up with the Kardashians instead of ourselves – that’s when we’re headed for trouble. Media is there to create awareness. We can’t let it allow us to compare ourselves, or we will lose ourselves in hot and not lists and forget what we’re really after.

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