As I was checking my Facebook timeline the other day, I couldn’t but notice something very interesting: a lot of the content posted by my social friends was motivational. Quotes, (or little images with quotes on it), small inspirational videos, personal stories. Each entry tiny and tidy, easy to digest, readable in less than a few seconds. That digital web almost got a consistency for a second. It almost became material.
After a few minutes (I don’t spend more than that amount of time on any of my social outlets) I came back to my work. Continued to do my stuff, which, as you may already know, consists of a rather heterogeneous mix of activities: writing code (Objective C and PHP), consulting, blogging and a few more others. I went like this for a good few hours.
As I approached the end of the work day, I checked my Facebook stream again. Same thing: motivational quotes, inspirational videos and that feeling of something materializing in front of my eyes.
Then it hit me: that long stream of small, bite-sized messages was forming some kind of a foam. A thin, almost weightless layer of content, on which many of my friends seemed to float quite comfortably. For a moment, I had to admit that I enjoyed that feeling too. Floating on a thin layer of foam is a nice feeling. Brings in a bit of relief from the daily stress, you know.
The Seagull On The Invisible Island
If you ever sailed at large on a sea or an ocean, you noticed that sometimes, when the weather is nice, there are some places in which the waves are forming small islands of white foam. I don’t know if it’s the currents, the reefs or something else, and to be honest I don’t really care. But I clearly remember how surprised I was when I first saw a seagull resting on one of those foam islands. It was actually sitting on the top of that small (maybe 2 square meters) carpet of foam which was floating along with the sea, and seemed to deeply enjoy being there.
But, as it usually happens when you’re sailing at large, weather took a harsh turn. In less than a few minutes huge waves were forming and the island was destroyed, in seconds, just in front of my eyes. The seagull had to fly again. Luckily, we were pretty close to the shore, so it didn’t have to fly that much.
Social media is literally the same thing. It gives this sense of immediate relief, but without any consistency whatsoever. If you watch constantly your Twitter stream, your Pinterest boards, your Facebook wall, then you’ll start forming this thin layer of foam. A small, ad-hoc island on which you can rest and get a sense of relief, enjoy the sea and the weather and, generally speaking, yourself. As long as the weather is good. In other words, as long as you don’t have any challenges to meet.
Because the moment you have to deal with some real challenges, this tiny island will disappear in a matter of seconds, just like the invisible island of my seagull disappeared bashed by the sea storm. If you do have something real to deal with, you’ll need much more than an island of foam to support yourself.
Building Your Own Island
It’s the same in any area of your life, not only in social media. It’s the same with your job, with your relationships, with your goals. Small, bite-sized, funny and motivational things you do constantly, made just to give you a sense of relief in front of the unquestionable difficulty of life, without real work to support your decisions, well, these things won’t create nothing but a small island of foam. They may give an immediate satisfaction, a smile perhaps, a good laugh sometimes, but, as necessary as they are in our lives, smiling and laughing alone won’t build a real island.
Because building a real island is tough. Something that will be rock solid, something that will provide shelter when the storm will hit unexpectedly, something that will be there for the next sunrise and the next one and the next one, that’s something you don’t build with escapism and fast-food knowledge. It takes work. It takes effort. Sweat, blood and tears.
Building your own island means standing for yourself. It means doing what you love to do each day, constantly, with discipline and dedication, even when you really don’t feel like doing it. Especially when you don’t feel like doing it. It means moving your ass and getting things done, keeping the goal clear in your head and taking all the necessary steps to achieve it. Yes, it hurts sometime. Yes, it’s fucking hard. Yes, it’s not always funny and easy and motivational.
But there are few things in my life that I appreciate more than the feeling I have in the morning, watching the sunrise from the beach of my own island, spreading that magical, red light over the silent waves on top of which, from place to place, I can see sometimes a small patch of elusive white foam.