Social Media Purge: Loneliness (written 2017)

 

Recently I made the decision to disconnect from social media. If you’ve read my previous articles you will understand that this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. To be quite honest, in the beginning it was more difficult than I expected, which might sounds ridiculous, but given that it is such a prevalent part of today’s western culture, unsurprising. I felt quite lonely and disconnected from everyone. That’s to be expected I suppose.

I think my main regret is the driving force that caused me to do this. It wasn’t all a big positive cleanse. It was, like most of my decisions, partly based on paranoia and anxiety. I would love to say that I did it purely for healthy reasons, like the reasons I always wanted to be social-media free. But it was more of a sudden, reactionary response to feeling fed up.

When you are someone who has sudden urges and impulses, you probably know the feeling of regret in the back of your mind, after getting really excited or fired up about something, and doing it in the moment without really thinking about how it will make you feel. You know what the possible consequences are, but you push them aside. And when they crop up, you brush them off.

Ooooh to live a life without social media….how terribly tragic. (Please note sarcasm). When we get too used to unnecessary privileges, we find it hard to live without them, however ostentatious the privilege.

 

The real point I am trying to make about being lonely, is that I have forgotten how to communicate effectively. Or that it is impossible to communicate with my peers without the use of social media. I miss my friends who I met around the college days, and afterwards, when I refused to leave and stayed around because I had found “my people” and did not want to let go.

Sometimes it feels that there are too many people in my life and just not enough time. That sounds like a strange complaint doesn’t it? I find it impossible to balance everything. Instead I swing from one extreme to the other; hermit or social butterfly. Both comes with their own stresses and tensions. I’ve always been terrible at making plans and following through on things, yet  usually made an effort to attend social events despite feeling anxious or being broke, etc. I always found a way. But it became exhausting sometimes. Always chasing thrills, but never being able to maintain them. Connecting to people, while alienating myself at the same time.

Being stuck at home, means that that aspect of my life barely exists anymore. I adore my friends here. What I don’t adore is walking around my hometown, where I have lived my whole life, which basically feels like living in a time warp, with  constant,involuntary shoves down the dark side of memory lane. I might not know exactly where I want to be, but I know where I don’t want to be, and that’s here.

I miss the feeling of connection. It’s not that I miss connecting with people online, it’s just that that was my only way of connecting with the majority of people due to current circumstances. I miss being around people more than anything. And I knew I would. In a way, social media only served to remind me of all the events I couldn’t go to, all the plans I was constantly flaking on, and all the people I couldn’t see. It was just a feeling of constant guilt and loneliness and missing people. My responsibilities had changed, circumstances changed, both financial and residential. I think what hurts me is that my friends and acquaintances might feel shut out. Or worse yet, move on without me. But being so near, yet so far, and being left behind, is a bit of a scary thought.

I like the idea of things being left up to fate. And surprising people. The problem with this is that fate is often prevented from occurring, because everyone else is so damned contactable all the time, and busy arranging plans, instead of letting things unfold.

And when you carry the idealistic view that the people who want you in their lives will make an effort to contact you, you will often find that you are alone. It’s too high-maintenance and challenging for people to reach out to you. They are merely busy with the craziness of modern life, and I feel that your twenties are a time when you have less expectations in your friendships. You perhaps see friends less, but start to get more of an idea which ones you should focus more on. But I know that there are many people out there, who are thoroughly influenced by social status and popularity, or visibility. And it’s not their fault. It’s simply a side-effect of the culture that social media has spawned. People like people who are liked by lots of people. Or appear to be. If you have ever felt, or noticed that you were more likely to “like” a status that was  already “liked” by a more substantial amount of people, then you will recognise this.

 

Social status is not something that I believe is in anyone’s greatest interest. Particularly those who crave it and crave the approval and admiration of their peers. The higher your social status, or visibility, the more vulnerable you are to criticism. If what you are promoting, is indeed yourself, then any attacks you receive are personal attacks. It’s a vain and dangerous pursuit. Being overexposed is basically inviting everyone to have a say on your personal life and being. Fine if you can handle it. But it takes a special kind of person to handle that in a way that won’t affect you. And unfortunately most people these days have opened themselves up to the pitfalls of  social media “fame”, the majority of whom are not equipped to deal with it. It has become such a commonplace thing, it is practically ingrained into youth and adult culture.

I believe that those who want it the most, often want it for all the wrong reasons, and are thus more susceptible to the downsides of being overexposed. Wanting a public platform as a source of personal power, and yet caring so much what people think and craving mass approval and admiration, is a recipe for disaster.

The more social status you have the more accountable you become. And if your social status is solely based on your self-image and narcissistic pursuits, rather than a service or product etc, that you have to offer? Better buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Bad enough having to sacrifice your privacy for a cause you believe in. It honestly deeply worries me what social media has done to people. And that might sound real superior or pretentious, but sure I’m only off it about a month or two at this point. I find it horrifying that everyone must be constantly connected. Friends and enemies alike. There is no escaping your demons, or memories that you would rather put to bed. Not everyone is going to like you or have your best interests at heart. There are some in fact, who will do the exact opposite. I worry a lot about the anxiety and self-esteem issues presented, or exacerbated, by the existence of social media. I’d like to ask anyone experiencing these kind of anxieties or problems to stay safe and protect yourself as much as you possibly can. And to remember that you are a truly special being who has the love and admiration of many people, whether you know it or not. Just try to remember what, or whom is most important to you, at your very core. You can’t make everyone happy or please everyone all the time, but you can at least try to make yourself happy and please yourself (ooh, stop that.)

I think it’s just the life stage I’m at. I feel guilty a lot of the time for feeling the way I do, because there are much bigger problems in the world and people surviving without basic human rights, in a way that I can’t even imagine. Sometimes I think stress is something that is invented by privilege. We live in world where material wealth is often rewarded with the loss of self-sufficiency. It seems of the biggest  or most common stresses in an elitist and capitalist society revolve around self-image, reputation,money, education and employment. Things that started off as luxuries, soon become a factor of stress.

I see so many people discovering their own power, but using it to promote and defend their own image, rather than recognise that it is their contribution to the world. Perhaps that is what I am doing right now. Sickening really. I can’t force people to read my writing, and I won’t try. Self-promotion does not particularly interest me. The promotion of thought is what interests me, though expanding your consciousness comes with it’s own dangers. Once you see things a certain way, you will never see life the same way again. Unless,of course,you continue to slip into denial and a comfortable ignorance, which is what I often practice. It does creep back up on you though. The guilt, the feeling of responsibility to attempt to change the things that you perceive to be destructive.

I don’t like having too much access to people I don’t know, or vice versa. Or knowing things about people that I am not supposed to know. Information is too readily available and it becomes addictive. It is a completely normal thing these days to “cyber-stalk” people you are attracted to, but it’s something that does not feel right to me, and never will. Just the idea of having information that you have not earned or something? Not sure how to describe it really. What happened to getting to know people? We’ve all done it. The issue is not that people will seek information. Curiosity is part of human nature, along with many other traits, both good and bad. The problem is that the information is so available, and that we give people access to our information. The problem is that we trust our species, with this power and don’t consider the fact that we are a flawed species who don’t always do the right or good thing, or think things through. I don’t believe anything that is online is ever fully protected, regardless of privacy settings. It’s an unsettling thought.

I’m lucky to have met amazing people who I have really connected with throughout my life. I feel that the more I connect with myself, and disconnect with the cyber world of technology and social media, the more real these connections become and the more I can sense what is meant to be, and what isn’t. That is why I resent the idea of people being drawn to you, or each other, for the idea of something, or a projected image alone.  We need to realise that fawning over people that we don’t know, has much the same principles as fawning over celebrities. We admire the way they look, or the things they do or say, but at the end of the day, we don’t know them or have no right to claim a connection to them. Placing someone on a pedestal is a dangerous thing for both parties involved.

What’s also strange is that when people find out that you don’t have a Facebook, they automatically assume that you are a suspicious or untrustworthy character or that you are “hiding something”. What I am “hiding” is my distinct dislike of what I believe to be a wider societal issue. And I’m not sure I’m hiding it very well. Though I do try to refrain from bringing it up, because it’s a tiring subject to debate.

I may miss a lot of people. But it is up to me to make the effort and try to create the conditions to spend time with these people. Even if it is very rare. And I should be able to stay connected to people, without social media and without any expectations or creating imbalances in other ares of life. I will continue to miss people regardless, due to many other factors. So yes, I will admit that I have been feeling lonely or forgotten about at times, but that this was self-imposed and ultimately the better option for me. I’ll also admit that my ideals are rather far-fetched and I may be excluding myself for a long time, until I become more confident and independent in myself. And I’ll also admit that even thinking about the fact that not having online visibility could cause problems, only further boggles my mind.

I’m not advocating that everyone go social-media free or that this is something that does not have it’s own challenges. There are many positives too. It’s a great platform for sharing and celebrating the beauty of the world, and important issues. And can be a very effective way of communicating long-distance or canvassing for social/political issues.  There are upsides and downsides to everything, no matter how we like to look upon things with rose-tinted glasses. This an option that I am trying out, that I feel is good for me and that I find interesting. Personally I am often torn by the conflict of wishing to reach out to as many people as possible and wanting to be invisible. I think that everyone is more affected by the new age of technology and social media than we aware of,, but the more we become aware, the more we can protect ourselves.

Any opinions or thoughts welcome.

I would love to hear what other little issues people have stumbled across that I might have left out.

As always, take care of yourself and believe in your dreams

Stay Golden  x

 

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Narcissism and the Digital Age

** Found this draft I had written a year ago and failed to finish or post post. Stopped writing completely because I was worried my writing might be bothering people. (I mean you’d have to actually read it to be bothered by it.) How Ridiculous! So here’s a series of vague disjointed bullet points I had written down as ideas/thoughts. Will be elaborated on.

  • Social Media- based around validation and approval
  • Nothing is sacred- conversations, pictures. Everything is screenshotted or made public. Every relationship flaunted online.
  • I’ve been told it looks “suspicious” that I’m not on social media. That I’m “hiding” something. To be quite frank I’m not hiding anything, least of all my disdain for the mentality of “if you didn’t post it online, did it really happen?”. Maybe I am actually capable of having fun without making sure the world is aware of it.
  • Too many people in your life. Too many spectators. How many of these people are genuine friends? Also enemies/exes/people who dislike you keeping tabs on you for their own entertainment or curiosity.
  • Nothing is left up to fate. There’s an app for everything. Dating, cooking. Some apps even give other app users your location. Stalking is no longer a crime. It’s far too easy and acceptable these days. Everyone is accessible.
  • Rose-tinted glasses.
  • Constant connectivity and reminders of past. Natural part of life is letting go of certain connections and moving on.
  • When you sever your social media/ digital connections you may as well be declaring yourself a recluse. If it’s not convenient to get in touch with you, people will forget about you.
  • Damaging socially and spiritually. People just don’t make the effort to meet up anymore. Or at least not to do anything that can’t be exploited on various forms of social media to show everyone how fun you are.
  • Lack of authenticity. Everyone is a “brand”. Self-promotion. Adapting your words to appeal to a wider audience. Contrived, strategic, projecting desired image.
  • Showing up to events you are not in the mood for. (not sure what I meant by this)
  • Excessive online communication.
  • More often that not, people’s personal power is not being used for the greater good. People with strong ability to influence others did not earn this position and do not do so responsibly. Usually just used for selfish and superficial means. Rarely see influence and popularity being out to good use.
  • Oversharing. Tweeting/Facebooking when drunk or emotional. Emotional instability expressed online rather than seeking help.
  • The people’s court. Opinion polls on everything from fashion choices to political views.
  • Self-absorption has become completey accepted and normalised. People are too in their heads. Leads to lack of support from others. And preoccupation with self. Mental health is greatly affected.
  • Charitable acts only as means of showing off.
  • Online bullying/aggression. Opinions being expressed and compared instead of “live and let live” mentality. No room for human error, difference in opinion.
  • All pictures are online. People don’t keep their own pictures anymore. Memories seem less precious. Most pictures are overly posed.
  • Little sentimental value
  • Feeling the need to prove things
  • Constant distractions
  • Social stress, need to please. Need to be in constant contact.

 

 

A while back, probably over a year ago, I wrote a poem called ‘Soul’ which laments simpler times before the use of social media really blew up.

This is the link to the video if anyone is interested https://youtu.be/2XtB7llDQtg

As with all poems, you may interpret however you wish. I see it as a reflection on what modern western culture has become and how social media has changed how we view ourselves and others. I know that since my departure from the bulk of social media I have felt isolated in some ways. And almost as if people are only equal to their likes or their online presence. Most people I know, thankfully don’t think like this, but some do, and I find that scary. I don’t miss the attention, (not that I was drowning in it or anything. Not even a little bit. I’m just easily overwhelmed and need breaks from this whole constant connectivity thing), but I do sometimes miss the sense of connection and being able to access people, or use social platforms in a positive way. It’s hard to try to spread a message , and be invisible at the same time, or distance myself from the things that don’t fit me. But I guess this is my way of trying to do that, in a way that allows me space and lets me absorb the positivity around me and all the beautiful things the world has to offer. Anyways, click the link if you wish.

 

Try stay true to yourself and speak the truth whenever you can. Fuck image and reputation and whatever bullshit the kids are pushing as trends these days. All my love. Sparkle sparkle ✨✨✨

Ps. I’m sorry that this piece is quite bland. I’m not one of those amazing spoken-word or slam-poetry artists. That whole “I am tiger, hear me roar” thing is cool, but it’s just not me. I’m not the best at emoting, but I hope the message still gets across. I’m rather emotionally flaccid. Yes, not placid, FLACCID. The emotional equivalent of a limp sexual organ. Limp and lifeless. Well, hopefully not lifeless, but maybe a bit limp compared to what you might be used to. Or soothing and gentle if you’re an optimist XX

 

A Perfect Illusion

Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost everyone seems to suffer from some form of anxiety or stress these days. In fact there seems to be an epidemic of mental illness and suffering.

Why is this? Yes there’s the usual stresses; economic stress, overworking, unemployment, personal or family tragedies. These are not new issues. But theres something different now. There have been a few extra things added to the mix. Social anxiety isn’t just affected by your personal interactions. It can also be dictated by your online interactions. The strive for perfection has been upgraded. The standards have become higher and more unrealistic.  It is a thousand times harder to disconnect and live in the moment. Everything you need is on your phone. Stop using your phone for a few days, and somebody will probably file a missing persons report. Deactivating your social media will be seen as a serious sign of distress, and often is. The masters is the new bachelors degree. Want to work a menial job? Hope you have three years experience and a completely irrelevant PHD.

Everyone looks so polished and perfect. Social status is a legitimate character reference. Want to work for us? You must have x amount of followers on Facebook. MADNESS. Your ability to influence people or carry out work effectively is judged by how active and popular you are on social media. Surely everyone knows that ones image on social media is entirely controlled and carefully constructed in an unrealistic way, simply to garner positive attention? Have you ever sat beside someone as they compose a Facebook status, wracked with anxiety and desperation?  Have you ever been on a night out in your local, and everywhere you look there are people taking millions of selfies in a desperate bid to look like they are having fun, instead of actually having fun?

Is anything sacred anymore? Wouldn’t it be nice to run into someone you hadn’t seen in a while and actually be surprised by their new haircut or job or pregnancy? Because the “obligatory” pictures or status hadn’t been posted to inform everyone of this news?

I may sound old and bitter, but I am in fact 24, which puts me bang in the middle of the current young adult generation, who are mainly responsible for all of this. And I was a part of it for a good while. Until I became more and more disheartened with what the world was turning into.

Is there such thing as empathy anymore? People don’t seem to reach out as much. You can have 700 friends on social media and yet feel incredibly alone. Most of what you will see is other people showing off their own lives. Where is the connectivity that we claim is such a vital part of social media? Mark Zuckerberg claims that every country has the right to connectivity, and he is right, but I sincerely doubt that his intentions were entirely humanitarian.

Snapchat started off as a fun way of communicating, but I’m sure we all have had those people in our feeds who like to document their entire day, mundanities and all, for the world to see, in the style of a pseudo celebrity. I’m not trying to offend individuals. I’m simply trying to open peoples eyes to the fact that technology and social media have completely taken over our lives.

How many times have you been at a concert only to look around and see everyones phones in the air, filming? They are not in the moment, watching the concert with their eyes. They are watching it through the lenses of their phones, making sure that everyone at home knows exactly how much fun they are having. These days, “the fear of missing out”, affectionately referred to as “FOMO”, can actually be considered a real source of stress and sadness. You are not seeing an honest view of others lives. It is like a “best bits” montage.

However, anyone who has a twitter, or indeed a Facebook will know that people will openly talk about their mental issues as long as they can do it in a way that is amusing and witty. Or allows them to put down others, while still appearing to be a victim.

I think its brilliant that people have more of an understanding or their own mental health, and are more honest about the issues they face, but I can’t help get this sinking feeling that this is being used and abused as an excuse for all kinds of negative behaviour. If you have a message to spread and wish to inspire or uplift others, using your own personal experience, go ahead, but this doesn’t seem to be the case a lot of the time. Many people seem to use their anxiety as a crutch, or to lash out at others or compose long-winded essays which portray them as a victim but condemn others. This can be the case with many social media “activists”. Surely attacking others and pointing the finger is not an effective way to get your point across? If you really do strive for understanding, you must have empathy and a well-rounded perspective, and be willing to understand both sides and attempt to bridge the gap, instead of further instigating the divide. But that’s just my opinion. The problem is that everyone has the public platform to say and do as they please. You don’t have to earn it. Online, we can all be Gandhi.

When your message becomes more about how others see you, and boosting your personal image, it is time to step away from the cause. Trust me. That may sound harsh, but those who crave attention the most, are often those who can’t handle the criticism that you will inevitably open yourself up to. This is why it is important to do these things with a real passion in your heart. The human ego is a fragile thing.

There are anonymous sites in which people you know can ask you questions. Some people naively think people will use the site to reveal their secret crush. And I’m sure they often do. But what about the risk of bullying? Why is it that those who seek public approval and validation the most, are the ones who are the most vulnerable to criticism? I am deeply worried for a lot of people, because of this. Why let others define you?? They don’t know the real you.

We can worry about people or wonder how they are, but how many of us actually take a chance and reach out? We let our own anxiety and fear of what others will think, get in the way of what is really important. Trust your gut and hold onto your integrity. You owe it to yourself.

I’m scared. Terrified. I don’t want to lose people I love to this crazy world we live in. Life is hard enough! All these beautiful, beautiful souls stuck in this invisible prison.

I hope that anyone who is reading this and feels affected, knows that this comes from a place of love and understanding. My aim is not to make anyone feel about bad themselves, but to realise that you are special, no matter how high you rank on the social ladder, or how insignificant you feel. It’s funny how easy it would be for me to make it appear as though my life is perfect. Meanwhile I sit at home, agonising over jobs, over not being skilled enough and feeling as though everything is going wrong. The more society progresses, the more we can feel left behind. It’s hard to keep up.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever kind of day you’re having, I hope you can take some time out of your day to be in the moment, to go for a nice walk and look around you. Or to spend time with a loved one. We often think we don’t have time to do this. But the secret is, we can make the time, and it will make all the difference to your day. Sometimes we need to just take a step back and breathe and re-evaluate our purpose. And I’m not talking this big life purpose. Just being. I often suffer from dissociation and existential crisis and I find reconnecting to the universe is the best way to lift me out of this.

I’m sending you all love. As terribly cliche and cheesy as this sounds, the more you learn to love yourself, the less you will care what others think. I used to roll my eyes at affirmations and when people told me to look inward or spend time with nature, but it worked for me. Stop fighting for affection and love and acceptance, and find it within yourself. You deserve it and you are worthy.