The fast times of social media

(U.S. Air Force illustration/ Tech. Sgt. Austin Knox)

(U.S. Air Force illustration/ Tech. Sgt. Austin Knox)

GOODFELLOW AIRFORCE BASE, Texas -- This commentary is part of a Comprehensive Airman Fitness development series.

It's become a bit of a cliché to point out that times are more different than ever, but it rings true: with the advancement of the Internet, and the creation of social media, we really do live in an unprecedented time of connectivity and sharing.

In seconds we can connect with anyone on the planet. We can see their face; we can hear their voice, from America to Iraq, from earth to outer space. We have truly conquered keeping in contact, however, as great as this is, it poses unforeseen problems.

We're constantly bombarded by information from the lives of others. We watch them through their profile pages and timelines, watch them achieve, watch them grow, watch everything. Because of this, it's harder to focus on building yourself, you can't help but compare your life to others'. Your friends going to a party that you weren't invited to, your best friend climbing Mount Everest AND Mount Kilimanjaro in the same day, and your grandmother playing late night bingo. Her Friday night bingo parties get way more attention than your Netflix binge watching, and you can't avoid it because it's all over your Facebook feed, your Instagram, and depending on how hip your grandmother is, your Snapchat.

This constant comparison of other people's lives to your own has an incredible effect on your spirit. Your spirit is your will-to-do. It's what makes up your core set of beliefs, your values, your sense of well-being and of purpose. With the advancement of social media, it's very easy to let your spirit slip away. You want to be cool like your grandma, but you can't stop comparing your life to her's and everyone else's, harping on what you aren't instead of focusing on who you are and what you're about. The result is nasty. You feel lost with no real sense of belonging; you don't see much point in your life.

When this begins, you need to start turning it around. Get your fulfillment back by reminding yourself that you are important. Some people do this by looking to religion, by praying, meditating, anything like that. Others gain their sense of place and purpose from learning about the universe, sports or charity.

Having a hobby is essential. It isn't meant to be something to fill gaps in time, but something that you get passionate about. Artists and athletes always seem like they're in a trance when performing their craft, and there's a reason for it: passion. Passion gives you the sense of purpose you need, the sense of belonging. It keeps you going. Go get passionate about something. Something needs to center you, to remind you of who you are and what you stand for. Some intuitively know what this is. Others have to search for what makes them feel whole.

So, when you find yourself beginning to wither from the constant engagement of social media, take a step back and seek out something to refill your sense of well-being and purpose. It can be as simple as reading a book. Or bingo.

Probably bingo.