It is Friday. The light of the atmosphere wore the beautiful end-of-the-day hue and the air is tainted with the scent of gas from cars racing home to begin the tantalizing task of unwrapping the weekend. Everyone wore that Friday look—joking over the roof of their cars to their co-workers or friends with checks in hand, the fresh imprint of tiredness just under their eyes and a smile that promises that they have everything but rest on their mind for the evening.
My Friday was similar, laughing to the giggles of my nephew, so free so young. I could hear the screeching of chairs and tables being arranged outside the house for the night’s sakau session—or “committee” as they called it. An uneventful hour went by and six month old Jaden was fast asleep, and I was being consumed by the moment. The far barks of the neighbors’ dogs prompted small twitches from that beautiful bundle under the Sponge-Bob blankets. It was times like that that I would need my tablet in hand to write what I thought.
I stepped out onto the terrace of the house, and found the “committee” squinting into cell-phones and tablets. I did not look twice, but my mind certainly did because I subconsciously turned back and returned to Jaden. Once I was back I was asking myself what was different and the answer was evidentin the square lights illuminating their faces—grasping their attention. It looked a lot like deers in the head light. That was a moment of awakening.
Social media has latched itself onto the whole concept of physical socialism and has defeated it. Squeezing away the attention and awareness to what is there and redirecting them to places where your presence is not always necessary. Don’t get me wrong, it matters to keep connections—but to spend hours of your day inside of a screen as life surpasses you is nothing less than sad. I am only one of many who have taken the time to actually stand back and see this problem under a serene light to discover the true calamity that it is.
It is in human nature that we flock to any source of power for unified existence in order to have a sense of purpose—in Pohnpei culture is our power, that is why bills and laws are only secondary systems for social alignment and order. Culture is weaved finely and knotted together by socialism. Social media is a fairly new wave, but a quite a powerful one none the less. The form of communication is what’s in question now. That crucial act of simply speaking to each other to have that formal understanding and ultimately building that mutual connection is lost in wires and screens—that small utterance of “Kaselehlie” and “Ihieng” is replaced with a nod and a swift return to finish off a facebook status. Communication is a vital conveying route for our cultural beliefs and if that is blocked out by foreign information from foreign media then our culture is polluted by needless information and tainted by an unnecessary form of communication.
Others might argue that is it part of modernization and a necessary change. Medicine—was an important change, formal education was an important change; duck faces and status updates on what you had for lunch are not. From what I have seen, sharing of information is powerful and not everyone understands the magnitude of the issues that can stem from misinformation. Put that power into anybody’s hands and rifts are created in families, friends—and inevitably, culture because it disrupts that tight bond we pride ourselves on as islanders.
Right now, we are dealing with an epidemic that disguises itself as something necessary. The symptoms include loss of interest in your physical surroundings and immediate relationships. Delusional states where one believes they must constantly update themselves with redundant information. As well as the incessant itch to keep reminding everyone of one’s existence by changing one’s own profile picture every five minutes. This is an addiction and last I checked, we do not have a “social network addict anonymous” group. We do, however, have the community.
The Road Not Taken
I ask that we urge the young people’s involvement in more of all that their lives have to offer. See the world, understand it—grow a passion geared towards fixing it. Entice yourself into the ecstasy of living in the moment, screen-free. Embrace once more our humble culture and leave it up to your actions to convey you character. What people see of you is more likely what they will remember—not a facebook status you made about what you could have done. If the first example is what is required then I strive to be that. I am making a commitment to allocate my time, so that I spend less of it on social media and more of it actually socializing. I feel as though I am taking the road less traveled—and I am promptly reminded of that poem a kind natured peace corp. teacher named Greg once made us read in our senior year in high-school by Robert Frost where the last five lines read:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”