“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
“If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, right?”
That used to be a running joke – now, it’s a terrifying reality because we have become so intertwined and desperately co-dependent on maintaining these subjective realities we wish to convey upon our adoring public audience, that we end up believing our own stories, creating simulations, craving adoration, transforming our lives into public fodder for mass consumption to fill a void of our own creation – this void takes many shapes and forms, ironically enough, since a void by definition is the absence of space, emptiness, nothing.
What is it that we’re missing?
Simple – that same human connection, that warmth, that compassion, that sense of familiarity and togetherness we severed the moment we became dependent on fostering and “enhancing” that connection through technological advancement. We became weary of the influx of sensory overstimulation that cemented what we always feared: that the world is a big, scary place no matter where you go.
Addicts of any kind tend to find comfort in self-destructive behavior, antisocial if you will (not to be confused with schizoid behavior*), because it is an immediate release of tension and frustration, finding solace in the numbing of the senses, desensitizing themselves to the world and the pain and confusion it harbors in our lives.
*On a very important side note, I feel the need to clear up the defining distinction between what people think antisocial means versus what it truly is. When most people think of “antisocial” behavior, they default to what is better known as schizoid behavior – which is “characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary or sheltered lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment, and apathy.”
Antisocial Behavior is defined as “disruptive acts characterized by covert and overt hostility and intentional aggression toward others. Antisocial behaviors exist along a severity continuum and include repeated violations of social rules, defiance of authority and of the rights of others, deceitfulness, theft, and reckless disregard for self and others.” – I don’t know about you, but that sounds like 90% of online social media behavior to me.
Why do I bring these things up?
Because, in theory, obsession with social media is an addiction just like any other, with just as much dangerous repercussions. Studies have now shown how detrimental and dangerous social media is to mental health.
Unfortunately, I am a recovering social media junkie.
I used to be OBSESSED with Facebook, typing away until my fingertips would bleed, criticizing every post in sight, ranting the night away until the early hours of the day – I would have surgically implanted a smartphone into my forearm if it meant I could be instantly jacked into Wall Feeds and comments sections, able to stream my consciousness straight into everyone’s glowing face, submit their eyeballs to the will of how I say things should be. Then again, I think that’s everyone’s power fantasy – that their meaningful words, their passion, their devotion to critical analysis, their creative genius, the world should bear witness and submit in awe to such raw talent and power!
Allow me to elaborate with a few examples:
Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click-hashtag-emoji, etc., then she giggles, freezes in a seductive pose full of empty innocence and superficial flair – the world is perfect, frozen in time, a succulent feast for weary eyes, low self-esteems, and validation. All the boys will come to her yard, and that’s just the way she wants it – what SelfieGirl wants, SelfieGirl gets. (Nobody puts SelfieGirl in a corner!)
SelfieGirl in action! Instagram me, babe!
Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click, etc. – furious fingers stabbing the keyboard in righteous anger and judgment, filled with infinite knowledge and impeccable dry wit, wait, wait, wait, delete, delete, delete, *insert threat-filled bravado comment here*, *insert expletive geared towards Oedipal rage and discomfort*; people quiver at the sight of my words slashing through their sensibilities, and I will change the world!
AngryCommenterDude on every news article; Mansplain it to me, sir!
Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click, an armchair general/political savant/social justice warrior/frustrated lawyer-who-never-passed-the-bar educates the masses on the virtues of social norms, blessing all with their impartial wisdom about injustice in news articles, shooting down differing opinions, engaged in the eternal conflict between right and wrong, in an infinite virtual landscape.
SelfRighteousLady who spent more time on hacktivism than actual study *sad face emoji*
What do these three scenarios have in common?
All three take place in social media environments 24/7, a constant barrage of data, rampant emotions, trolling opinions, superficiality, and reality distortion.
In laymen’s terms: people sometimes take social media WAY too seriously.
We create online personas, virtual egos that are untouchable, unbreakable, infallible, because they are intangible and ephemeral, or so we fool ourselves into believing. Lie enough times, and eventually you’ll start seeing them as absolute truth.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is a very scary thought.
For someone who is mentally ill, stability is a luxury that most times we cannot afford; we take things at face value, and we hold on to the idealization of a concept, we clutch it tightly, because we crave and desire a security blanket, a safety net that will save us from our tumbles down the rabbit hole of mental health.
And so we become obsessed with online life, because we can produce perfection with the touch of a button – we can create barriers, filter our thoughts, distill our memories, manipulate, restructure, recreate, redefine, all with our fingertips, some imagination, and the most dangerous ingredient of them all, anonymity.
Anonymity breeds ambiguity – and that my friends, is a ticking time bomb for anyone who has a mental condition that clouds our judgment, that strips us of our clarity, that toys with our impulses, that enables our innermost base instincts to lash out, without foresight, introspection, or regard for common decency.
I have personally seen the dire effects of social media as it pertains to suicidal behavior, interpersonal relationship abuse, social instability, etc. We all have this morbid curiosity in vicariously living through others’ experiences, relishing in the misery of mankind’s folly, where reality is manufactured, recorded, and consumed in a gluttonous catharsis that alleviates any sense of dread because “it happens to others” and we find it hard to relate because on the screen, it’s not real; it’s just another TV episode, another form of entertainment and detachment.
I hate to break it to you:
Reality is what you make of it, but only in so far as it relates and affects others around you; it’s very tangible, very real, and whether you realize it or not, every little action, word, syllable, letter, click-clack and ding-dong you send out there will have a ripple effect. A smartphone screen won’t shield you from the repercussions of some anonymous entity’s thirst for notoriety. What we see, what we hear, day in, day out, is rammed right into our subconscious mind – no app will filter that, no matter how many blue light filters you have going, no matter how many notifications you disable.
When in doubt, disconnect – go into “airplane mode” if you will. Leave the toxic radiation emanating from that mini-nuclear reactor you call a smartphone, a tablet, a “productivity tool”, etc. – put it down, it’s ok, it won’t explode if you don’t use it, you won’t run out of life support if you’re not interconnected.
Take a breather, look out the window – better yet, go outside. Feel the breeze on your skin, feel the drops of sweat rolling down if you’re in a warm environment, revel in the snowy shiveriness of snowflakes and chills if you’re in the cold. Let yourself feel. No static noise, no scrolling chatter, no ads, no pop-ups, no ADD enablers, no fear – just you and your nerve-endings and neurons firing in synchronicity and harmony, your body tingling with sensations, mindfulness, awareness, and peace.
It’s ok to be disconnected in an interconnected world, as long as you know that it is a healthy, conscious choice, not a social obligation to please others – you are entitled to choosing yourself, your health, your sanity, your self-esteem, your self-respect, your dignity above all other things.
You are not your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, *insert exponentially multiplying social media platforms here* – you are a breathing, feeling, simple human being….and that is ok.
Like, share, and subscribe if you agree. *wink wink nudge nudge*
I’ll leave you guys with a clip from one of my favorite comics, masterfully throwing down one of my favorite bits that encapsulates the ridiculous idea of the “Modern Man” perfectly:
George Carlin, I freakin’ miss you terribly; RIP, you mad genius!!