Perception. It’s a hard word to define, especially from an individual standpoint. How one person perceives things is different from how another person does. The only fact about perception is that we all have our own views on everything: our surroundings, our interests, our loves, our lives. To say my perception on anything is right and another’s is wrong is merely subjective. No one can understand another’s viewpoint. Until someone has walked in another’s shoes, they can never truly understand another person’s reality.

The fact is we live in a world where we can shape anyone’s perceptions of ourselves, of others and pretty much the world. We live in an age of digital second-hand information. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, shitty blogs or television, we all have the ability to find out anything we want with just one click of a button or flip of a switch. These devices were meant to free humanity; unlimited knowledge on a mass scale seems like a wonderful concept on paper. But the reality of the matter is we have taken these tools and done something quite contradictory to our original intentions. Instead of utilizing this technology to educate the masses, we have instead decided to squander this gift for the sake of nonsensical bullshit.

Next time you sit in a lecture, take some time and observe your surroundings. You will come to notice a phenomenon. About half the students will be on the Internet, usually on social networking sites such as Facebook. Facebook is a site that lets the user control anything someone sees on their page: photos of themselves, their “friends,” statuses, quotes, religion, philosophy, you name it. It allows people to create the best image possible of themselves for everyone to see. It also allows someone to get a background check on their peers with just a simple click of a mouse. Wonderful, right?

In some ways, yes. Everyone wants to look their best, and everyone wants others to know what they are like. This is a fact of human nature. But the reality of the matter is that some of us have lost our perception of reality. Half of the students in your lecture are more concerned with tagged photos of themselves at an I.V. rager than the lecture they pay $25,000 a year to hear. Some would rather figure out anything they want to about a person through a website than have a conversation firsthand. Some are so enveloped in photos of themselves, or someone’s comment on their page that it evokes emotions that, to be quite honest, are both wasteful and insane.

The last lecture I sat in, I enjoyed the pleasure of sitting next to a loud group of girls. Normally I am able to tune out such distractions, but on this occasion there was no way to ignore their conversation. Two of the girls were arguing with the other two that they did not look good in a photo the other two had posted, and that it should immediately be taken down. For shits and giggles I took a glance at the photo out of the corner of my eye. None of them looked any different in the photo than they did in real life, but telling them this would make me look like an asshole, so I kept my mouth shut.

My mind, on the other hand, had a lot more to say. How could one photo make two people so enraged? It’s all trivial bullshit. If one photo can work someone up like that, what would paying bills they can’t afford or having children do to their sanity? Fuck. We should never allow others’ perceptions of ourselves to cause joy, pain or anger within us. Those emotions should be inspired within ourselves, and at the mercy of our own perception of our actions, not others’.

There is more out there than just status updates, photos and friend requests. There is a world out there, waiting to be explored, traveled, seen, loved. We won’t find the best image of ourselves through a website. The only way to find that out is to get off the Internet, get outside and live. Next time you wake up, shut off your phone, turn off your computer and turn off the TV. Leave the digital dependency behind. You’ll come to find that the morning sun looks better through your own eyes than through a computer screen.

Russell Noe is a second-year economics and political science major.