Friday, May 10, 2013

On Social Media and Loneliness

Loneliness seems to be the undercurrent. To my understanding the primary reason that networking sites like Pinterest, Facebook, Myspace, Instagram, Twitter, Google, etc are such a success is due to loneliness or longing. They seem almost a symptom of it. They fill a need. Being acknowledged (i.e. heard or seen) is high in demand; almost desperately so. You couple that with a human's apparent need to share and voilĂ , you have the makings of a successful social media model. Google+ goes so far as to state, "Google+ aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life." How is that even possible while you're seated on your posterior or glued to some sort of screen or monitor?

This speaks volumes of a disconnect as a culture or species, although a great many might have you convinced that there is nothing wrong with this. After all, what's wrong with celebrating our successes? At least, that is how it must be packaged by our 'plugged-in' purveyors. While their niche isn't 'isolation' and 'loneliness', they have certainly benefited from the epidemic. Medicine is only profitable when there are those to medicate. "It's all in how you view it" (yeah, okay). While there is nothing wrong with that, it does seem disingenuous when all that's seen or heard of a person's online persona is 'picture perfect'. It almost promotes and perpetuates a climate of insincerity and an insatiable state of wanting to measure up to the exploits of those "living the dream." Or to, at the very least, market your dream (nightmare for some) a little better than you have to-date.


Even in a physically social setting (as opposed to a virtual one) folks experience isolation. There is a need to be accepted, affirmed, "befriended" and "liked". And, while the opportunities abound directly in front of our faces, in the form of human beings who we can just as easily introduce ourselves to at any given moment (whether at a restaurant, store, children's school, coffee shop, or other public forum), we'd rather present ourselves online, in a social media venue where we can construct, control, edit, revise, and perfect ourselves for publication. Even then, we can limit our interaction to the elect few who we categorize as "friends", "acquaintances", "circles", "followers", "subscribers", et cetera. It gives people a sense of connectedness, that all but disappears when forced to reconcile the reality of these online relationships; if they're even aware enough of the superficiality of some of them to begin with.

It gives people an arena within which to market the self they'd like the world to recognize and possibly respond to. It is a popularity contest. Like a Unicef advertisement, it is the hands of thousands of emotionally impoverished people grasping for affection, attention, validation. It is the photo of a college degree, hike up a mountain, exotic vacation, marathon, children's milestone, purchase of a new car or home, makeover, and/or a soap-box. But what of the other half of life that makes us who we 'really' are: the pain, dissatisfaction, affliction, failure, suffering, conflict, and drama? That's simply not as marketable (Well, it seems to work just fine for movies, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television, however something we'd rather not associate ourselves with). In fact, it's borderline unacceptable to display such vulnerability. Nobody wants to attend a pity-party. That's best celebrated alone. Suppress that part of self that might benefit the most from interaction and deal with it on your own time. Some go as far as allowing their virtual-self to be molded by what's been "liked" or commented on. We'll tailor our self to what we think will be found most interesting or acceptable to others.

How often do we walk up to a fraction of the hundreds of strangers we so often find ourselves surrounded by in social settings, in order to explore new relationships? I'm not talking about value propositions or the type of introduction that is made because there is something to be personally gained beyond the possibility of a new friend. At times, such introduction might even serve the other party more than yourself. Take a look around and you'll see more people interacting with others through their 'devices' than you'll see interacting with the very people they're seated amidst, next to, or in front of. It's all bit fearful and cliquish if you ask me (which you haven't and probably won't). And yes, I've been one of them, and on occasion continue to be. I am not exempt.

It's as though these social media outlets have morphed into some kind of anti love & acceptance movement that promotes a general sense of incompetence amongst those who habitually compare & contrast their real lives to the perfectly painted ones on the net. For some, it has become a trough from which to feed a desire to be accepted, affirmed, and valued. No matter how it's painted, it is certainly not the most palatable form of sustenance—spiritual, emotional, or intellectual in nature. While I could have just as easily given this a more positive spin, it would not have served to express my feelings on the matter as they are at this very moment. And, as usual, feel free to disagree.


Be Love and Loved...

Albert

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