Jung at Heart: Social Media and Self Knowledge

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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

–Carl Gustav Jung

 

Keira Shae is the author of How the Light Gets In, a BCC Press memoir.

 

I’m that Millennial. The one who took hundreds of thousands of pictures of my kids (pictures that all look the same), hundreds of my meals. The teen who grew up experiencing the Internet the way that other generations experienced oxygen. The original one who sincerely thought I should express political opinions on Facebook and had the debating capacity to change other’s minds. At nineteen.

The one who spent much of her adult life wondering how she could waste so much valuable time playing on social media.

I often wonder what will happen to my life, and my memories, when social media fades away and is replaced by something else. Will all of my clever posts sit around in some cloud-based bookshelf like the 16mm films and reel-to-reel recordings that my parents and grandparents didn’t know what to do with?

Or worse, will these posts become part of my archived personal record, fully indexed and searchable when my great-grandchildren start researching my life for their school projects? And will the hours that I spent on social media–as documented by countless selfies, clever memes, insightful poems, and pictures of breakfasts past–stand as witnesses to the triviality of my life and my penchant for wasting time?

And what about all of the people I interacted with every day? I have had all types of social media personalities in my feed, too–the single mom looking for a babysitter, the girl’s latest break-up with accompanying rounds of defeating talk and positive quotes, the guy posting gym pictures, the snarky memes bashing religion or politics in clever one-liners.

What was it all for? Did it matter? Will anybody in a hundred years care about the things that we spent so much time worrying about yesterday? Will anybody even care about it tomorrow? With all of the things we experienced in our carefully curated virtual worlds, did we really experience anything at all? I have been struggling with this question a lot recently as I have watched my children grow and realized how much of their lives I have missed because I loved hilarious vines.

But hey, I’m a millennial. We’re an optimistic bunch, and I can’t help but think that all of the time I spent on social media means something–that it is part of some grand plan that the Universe has for me. It must be worthwhile–otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.

So, what did we all experience on social media? We experienced OURSELVES, and only OURSELVES. Everybody that I met online contains a piece of myself that I either admired or was ashamed of. The self-absorbed woman who can’t stop talking about how cute her kids are? Yeah, that’s me. The gleeful hypochondriac who can’t wait to tell everyone about her latest illness? That’s me too. The guy in college who is always trying to show everyone how smart he is, the insecure high schooler whose every post is a desperate plea for validation, the opinionated social justice warrior who wants everyone to know how righteous her motives are–they are all me, or at least pieces of me that do not escape my notice.

The most long-lasting and effective change happened when we faced our “opposites” and had it out, and then couldn’t stop thinking about it, long after the computer was shut down. The person we couldn’t STAND was actually just a part of ourselves we didn’t like. We can see it all now, and social media was for us, all along.

There was reaching for love. There was need for attention. There were questions that (even with the vastness of the internet) couldn’t be answered. As we dug deep, we found answers, or the strength to accept that sometimes there are no answers, within ourselves. Social media was for us, and about us, all along.

Social media was a giant mirror. And we can look back on this time as an extremely personal journal, as a magnifying glass for our generation. That’s terribly uncomfortable. And that’s okay. It’s also really beautiful.

We can turn this into a lesson and an invitation to love.

Collectively, we have all gone through the psycho-social stages the analysts of the past said we would. Together, we have faced all the philosophies and crises of the ages. United, we can all face the future, more whole and complete.

And that is how this millennial turned the most common time waster and base indulgence into a spiritual experience.

*Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Comments

  1. OMG THIS IS BRILLIANT. Appreciate your posts, Keira.

  2. Also, I can never get enough Carl Jung.

  3. Interesting. Social media and the internet has become a practical manifestation of the eastern religious view that everything and everyone is connected.

  4. I’m so thankful for your comments. I agree entirely.

  5. “Or worse, will these posts become part of my archived personal record, fully indexed and searchable when my great-grandchildren start researching my life for their school projects?”

    I just took a little break from FamilySearch Indexing and read your piece. I love it! Maybe I will quote you in my next message to Indexers! Or will it cause them to stop indexing?