For this fifth entry I had the opportunity to interview Jack Moriarty. I met Jack a few years ago, and each year his photography continues to grow in recognition. He is well-articulated and witty, and I really appreciated everything he had to share on this topic. Thanks Jack!
How long have you been using social media?
“I remember it was a big deal when I got Facebook…it was a right of passage or sorts when I was 15. It was the next step in interaction with friends that I already knew. I didn’t really branch out, I just used it to connect with friends I already had. I was introduced to Instagram in 2013, but didn’t use it for almost a year. It wasn’t until later that I realized the potential connection and opportunities Instagram had to offer. It started off Facebook, integrated to Instagram, and that’s when it shifted from my personal circle to connecting with other people I otherwise wouldn’t have known without Instagram.”
How has social media benefitted you, and how has it negatively affected you?
“I've met a lot of people on Instagram. I met some of my biggest photography influences, which was awesome to connect with people I look up to for their creative influence. I got to go camping with them which was great because I got to see that they are regular people just like me. As far as positives and negatives go, social media is neutral, it just makes it 10-times easier to connect. For example, if you want to get from point A to point B, historically you would just walk there. A car just makes it really easy, but with that car comes negatives and positives. The car is neutral as well, it's what we project onto it that can make it negative or positive."
"As far as my expectations go, I get really discouraged and worry about the possibility that I did something wrong if a meet-up that I was expecting to go well, didn’t. I am very critical of myself. Social media has amplified the positives and negatives, and it has accelerated them. I wouldn’t know that I struggle with the things that I do, such as my perception of myself, if I didn’t put myself in these situations that push me out of my comfort zone. In high school, pre-Instagram, I was pretty introverted. So social media kind of helped me get out of that comfort zone on accident…I wasn’t necessarily looking for a way to connect with other people, it just kind of happened. I guess, in summary, it has accelerated growth, and it has also shown, painfully sometimes, where I need to continue growing. So as far as whether social media is more positive or negative, I would say it’s neutral when weighing what has been gained, and what has been lost.”
Some studies have been released showing that social media is linked to depression and anxiety in teens…what is your perspective on why that might be the case?
“Definitely not surprising at all. I think that, as far as my age group, kids born between 1995-1999, had such a weird combination of a childhood void of social media, and then we hit age 15 and 16 and everything just ramped up. The acceleration of social media has been ridiculous even within the past 3-4 years. I think that the main different between why kids would be more anxious and depressed now as opposed to the kids that didn’t have that social media is that their circles of 'community' are so big. In high school while I was going through that natural phase of angst that a lot of teens deal with, I was so caught up in my own world. Now you have kids getting snapchat and other massively interconnected media at such a young age, that now they are not only concerned with their immediate circle, but now they have to worry about everything else that is going on across the world at any given moment. They do not develop the ability to remove themselves for a bit to go home and retreat to their bedroom to deal with whatever happened in their day. Now, there is no retreat. I mean, you can lock your phone, but information is everywhere all the time.”
Have you experienced insecurity in your life? If so, has social media helped heal those insecurities, or has it enabled them?
“I found that a lot of my actions have been performance based. I don’t feel like I am living up to my potential if I don’t feel successful. I tend to feel like I am not in a good place in my life if I am not the best at something. The main theme is that I care so much about how people feel about me…cripplingly so. All of my actions are influenced by how I think people are going to perceive me. Sometimes it is difficult to remove myself from what needs to be done because of how people my view me after the fact. With Instagram, I am always comparing myself to other people, obviously…I think that is a major theme everyone can agree on with Instagram. If my life doesn’t look like that of someone that I look up to, I feel like quitting. I am unsure of myself and always worrying if the way I am doing things is the right way.”
“Another one is my physical appearance. I’m not very secure. Ever since I was 16-years old, I started paying attention to the way people might think of the way I look. That is tied into the whole thing about my self-worth being tied up in how others view me. I wouldn’t say its crippling, necessarily. But it’s definitely something I am trying to overcome and work through. Social media has definitely magnified that for me. There is no positive side in how social media has affected that struggle, it’s just all negative. Self-deprecating thoughts come from caring so much about what people think.”
Why do people love social media so much?
“Instant gratification. I think that humanity is always looking for maximum reward with a minimum effort, and there is really no effort in social media…obviously it’s different if it’s a business account or something, but as far as personal accounts go, there is no effort. Like when people post selfies…they post them because when they feel bad about themselves they know that their photo might get them that affirmation that they want from the likes and comments. Those endorphins that are released in your brain make you feel all these positive feelings when you see a certain response, but that feeling doesn’t last because the motive behind posting it does not come from a good place. It comes from lacking self-esteem, and then looking to the easiest way to cope with it. People treat the symptom instead of treating the problem. It’s a quick way to cope with self-doubt.”
“On a positive note, it provides a way for introverted people to connect more easily with others. It levels the playing field for those who might not have been able to make those connections on their own, whether it’s from a personal standpoint or for marketing/creative purposes. That’s been huge for me.”
What would life look like if social media never existed? And how would people react if it just crashed today?
“I think life would look better. As far as that ‘circle of concern’ I referenced earlier…we would still know what was going on in the world, but we wouldn’t know what some random person in some other part of the country is thinking about at that very minute. If there was no social media, everyone’s community would look like it did in the 20th century: focused and more intimate. For the most part people would be concerned with the people they see every day. I think it would be way healthier to have a mindset where we are only concerned with the people in our immediate community as far as how people feel/think about us, instead of having to worry about what all of these other people that I don’t even know and that don’t know me think about me. There is so much useless information out there. People don’t care about what someone had for breakfast on the other side of the world because there is no other connection there aside from what you’re seeing on social media. So much unrestricted information…and if that were to be removed, it would allow for much more meaningful connection.”
“If Instagram disappeared right now, I think we would be able to tell just how creative people really are. A lot of people are motivated to create and market themselves strictly because of the response they can get from people, not because they feel the need to create in the first place. That’s something I’ve had to think about for myself…I have processed through it and realized that, while the response helped, it hasn’t been my primary motivation. I enjoyed being creative before Instagram, but as an introvert it was such a new feeling to experience a spotlight of sorts for the work I put out. I think people’s ‘creativity’ would fizzle out if they didn’t have a platform to constantly showcase their work for people to see. I think it would cause people to realize just how much their motive behind what they do is for the feedback."