On first glance this might seem hypocritical because I write a blog, and so that must mean i-need-to-broadcast-my-opinion-for-it-to-matter-bla-bla-bla. There's a difference. To me, my writing is a form of self expression. And it helps me process things happening in my life. Rather than react with knee-jerk reflexes and not understand my own behaviours, by writing it out for people to read I have to afford myself the time to process my thoughts and experiences; a process called creative composting. While a lot of artistic people use this technique, it actually rolls off as a life skill; to construct meaning and value from life experiences, we need to allow time for our thoughts to gestate.
What's wrong with our social media generation is that nothing is about introspection anymore. There is no processing time, and so no real or lasting meaning is extracted from thoughts or events (think about snap chat and live tweeting; recording concerts rather than enjoying them live; and taking pictures instead of being in the moment). Rather, every thing is about affirmation and response. And in time, people get addicted to this external validation (e.g. likes/comments/retweets/shares).
There is no internal resolve, and instead things that used to be personal are now open space for the public forum. What's so bad about this? A concept known as contingent self esteem. Basically, the role of your own satisfaction relating to how much you are fulfilling your own values and goals gets pushed aside to make room for the importance of the approval of others. That's what happens to most people during their pubescent years [think..every time people say 'I was so pathetic in high school...I don't know why I cared about people's opinions so much']. Well to those people, let's slap some self-awareness into you...this is even worse. Rather than looking for the approval of others, people are now basing their self-worth on social comparisons. That's some Jane Austen shit. StatPro had a survey where 68% of people admitted that they share information on social media to define their identities. Leaving your self-worth on the outcome of these events can make your self esteem so prone to fluctuation, and even worse, make you so excessively self-conscious. And for what? Rather than genuinely being content, you are doing this to satisfy someone else (a someone who doesn't exist), and meet values that aren't even your own.
Values like the western ideal of consistent and ever-lasting happiness. Which is a load of shit. Think of the archetype of the ever-smiling person; complete and totally realised with happiness. Did you imagine those 1950's pin up Stepford wives? Yeah, think back to those images... Those were used as marketing strategies to make the perfect life attainable, if you just buy this product.
Before these times of consumerism, no one even pushed that shit. Look at Kahlil Gibran, "..the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?" Through our suffering we can discover profound meaning. Look at Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Schopenhauer, Rilke, and many other writers, poets, and philosophers. They all said the same thing. Even fucking Walt Disney: "Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows".
But now, like the progressive humans we are, we have evolved beyond selling this idea of happiness for marketing; we've moved onto projecting this image of us attaining this ideal to each other. Deep inside we know that its not being fulfilled (yeah..bullshit that your work party was 'so fun' just because they had a photobooth), and yet we compulsively need to keep projecting that shit to keep up and fight that subtextual message that something is wrong with you if you're not always beaming from ear to ear/ if you don't have a brimming social life. Yeah, people end up experiencing FOMO and having the expectation that they should always be happy, never anxious, or shitty.
^Does that even sound familiar? Rainbow cake freak from Mean Girls anyone?
What I dont understand is why people feel so self conscious when they dont project the perfect life/ever-lasting happiness online, when in real life, if you saw someone who was like, oh-my-god, so happy, and had the perfect job, with like the best boss, who sometimes micromanages but,like,you know how it is, that just means she's caring hehe, and loves their parents all the time [because nagging is a synonym of love], and has the perfect boyfriend, and loves eating clean, and is kind of stressed, but like, everything is all good *Colgate smile*, you would be waiting for their fucking eyeball to pop out like Mr Demartino from Daria.
It's undeniable that the online world is a part of our life and society now, and an integral part at that. So when are we going to break this disparity in expectations of online and real life? I remember over a year ago, when rapper/comedian Childish Gambino/Donald Glover uploaded some freestyle thoughts he'd written on post-it notes on Instagram and everyone freaked out thinking he was depressed or should be on suicide watch, when in all frankness I could relate to some of his lines;
"I'm afraid of the future| I'm afraid my parents wont live long enough to see my kids|I'm scared I'll never reach my potential| I feel like I'm letting everyone down|I'm afraid people hate who I really am| I'm afraid I hate who I really am| I'm afraid I'm here for nothing| I feel that this will feel pretentious|I'm afraid people think I hate my race|I hate people can say anything|I hate caring what people think|I'm afraid there's someone better for you|Or me."
These are all normal thoughts...why should someone be vilified for sharing them if many of us honestly think them? Why do people feel pressure to project happiness if obviously we aren't always feeling it? I took to Instagram and did a social experiment posting 100 pictures all under the same hashtags at similar times of the day, where some of them were pensive, some depressing, some inspirational, and some cocky.
Which ones do you think people 'liked' the most?
Which ones do you think people liked the least?
So obviously there is a massive disconnect going on, and people feel the need to project this plastic happiness, when really we are all going through the same basic human struggle. To be human is to experience a vast spectrum of emotion, and there will always be an ebb and flow. In all honesty, I'm at the most content I've ever been in my life and I still have my days when things don't go as plan. To me 'happiness' means being content and experiencing fulfilment, while accepting that different circumstances and/or emotions will rise. I'm just waiting on this idea to actually link up in our online lives in some way other than memes. Until then,