Mixed Feelings – an exploration of the impact of our digital habits , a chat with author Naomi Shimada

11.10.2019 | Blog , Culture , Literature | BY:

Social media is the most powerful, disruptive and exciting tool to have come into the world in the last decade. It’s role in our lives has drastically changed too, as we lean into its complex system of absorbing information, embracing likes, tracking follows and sharing bits of ourselves.

Two people extremely well placed to grapple with the complexities of this landscape are Naomi Shimada and Sarah Raphael. Having both grown with the internet,  and felt the power and possibilities that the digital landscape presented, they’ve distilled their thoughts and experiences into a new book, Mixed Feelings. Bringing together diverse voices and ideas, the result is an insightful take on the most pressing issue of our time. How do we live together, openly, imperfectly and harmoniously in this digital age? 

We caught up with Naomi Shimada to discuss their work. 

Why did it feel like now was the time to write Mixed Feelings?

We were feeling this overwhelming sense that this conversation needed to happen on a larger scale. For millennials, the internet and social media are the things that affected our lives in the biggest way. It’s changed the way we work, love, travel, exercise, eat! It’s drastically changed how we live and there’s bound to be some fallout because of that. The fallout is mostly an emotional one.  To have a smartphone and be using social media almost undoubtedly means you have mixed feelings about it. There is this overwhelming feeling I can feel in the air and see in peoples’ eyes that things can’t go on like this as they are. Everyone we spoke to, so many conversations I overheard, wherever I went in the world, someone was talking about something that happened via social media, where it’s something they saw or did themselves that made them feel some type of way!

 How have your relationships with social media changed since you started  using it?

More than anything I’m more conscious of how I try to manage my time on it. I know when I want to be quiet and when I feel like being more active. I’m more aware of the feelings it triggers and try to give myself what I need. Also I feel less affected by the pedestal culture it can often create. There are so many things we can’t see in a photo, I really understand now that just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it is good. And it’s been a good reminder that we shouldn’t all be yearning after the same things in life, success shouldn’t look formulaic to all of us. We are all on different paths and it’s important to remember that amid everything we see on social media. 

Do you feel like it’s possible to have a naive / carefree relationship with social media today, or does it have to be conscious and curated?

I think that question is more a lot to do with who you are as person and what you’re using social media for! I think if you use it mainly for work or as a portfolio etc than probably using it in a more curated way makes sense for you. I’m all about doing what you feel is best for you!

How do you think social media impacts our friendships and relationships in real life, for the better, and for the worse?

I don’t think it’s black and white like that. It’s been a super powerful tool for connecting with people for me. Some of those digital connections have turned into some of my deepest IRL friendships so I definitely don’t discount the power of a relationship that starts online, but it can be confusing sometimes when social media is so made to be so much about social capital. We can also use our profiles to curate and create a version of ourselves that doesn’t necessarily mirror who are in real life and that’s tricky terrain to navigate. We are also a generation that has so many aquaintances and less deep friendships. I think just being aware of what kind of friendships you want and what kind of friend you are or want to be to others online as well as in real life is a grounding place to start. 

What has been the most exciting thing about creating this book for you both?

It’s been really powerful to just create a space to have and try to encourage really honest and vulnerable conversations. Social media is so often a place of pretence and projection, so we wanted to make something that was the antithesis of that. We wanted to make something that you had to put your phone down to absorb and think and sit with. 

What was the biggest learning / take away from the process of creating the book?

That even though our book was focused on our emotional habits around social media, what we were really writing about, was the human condition. That all of these complexities that we’re talking about, all these feelings, are innately human but are just amplified by social media! 

Although it’s entitled mixed feelings, is there a clear takeaway that you want to leave readers with?

That you aren’t alone in these feelings. This technology in the grand scheme of things is so new we don’t really understand what it’s doing to our brains yet, as we don’t have the research. We don’t pretend to have the answers but we’re hoping by sharing our experiences it makes other people feel more free and less ashamed about these feelings we so often feel in isolation, alone on our phones. Let’s just be honest and agree that so much of how social media makes us feel and make us do – is weird man! 

Based on what people have contributed to the book and your own thinking, do you think our relationship with social media is going to change any time soon?

I don’t think this technology is going anywhere, our lives are only becoming more and more intertwined. These apps are designed to make us addicted, and the more time we spend on them the more tech companies can gain from us financially. So if we want the internet and social media to change, we have to change. We have to be more aware about how things make us feel and from then decide what kind of role you want it to keep playing in your life. If we want it to grow up we have to grow up ourselves.

 Mixed Feelings: Exploring the Emotional Impact of our Digital Habits by Naomi Shimada & Sarah Raphael (Quadrille, £16.99) is out now 

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