Self and Social Media

An article about the behaviour change in the workplace said that our places of work were becoming more focused on a younger and technologically based generation. I’m paraphrasing here, but it said that for these ‘millennials’, technology will be as necessary as food and oxygen.

It’s not far off. Just as Generation X was characterised by their alienation and narcissism, Gen Y have grown up tech savvy and saturated with social media. Everyone on public transport, in their homes, having dinner with their friends, you’ll see that quite a few of them are plugged into one device or another. No one wants to sit in silence anymore. Technology and the internet has expanded at such an alarming rate in the past two decades that every gadget and device created now practically forces its innovations down our throats, and we’re completely compelled by them. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Generation Z, the ‘post-millennials’ if you will, those born post-2000s – they won’t understand a life without smart technology.

And strangely everyone on the internet rants about it. Remember when we were so much more in tune with each other? Remember what it was like before the great rising of social networks, and Google gadgets, and bloody Samsung notification sounds? Social media, more like unsocial media.

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Don’t  get me wrong, the pre-internet era has been greatly romanticised. Social media, despite all its evils and misshapened opinions, connects us to some fantastic developments in the wider world. Oppressed communities and groups can find and support each other with more ease than people in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, could before. We’re creating on a level that’s unprecedented. We’re sharing old archive videos and feeling nostalgic for a past we never had.

As a language and history student, you can imagine how much I utilise the internet. The idea of a world without search engines, not having that ability to search up questions like “why lightheaded when stretching” and “why tired after eating”, makes me a little queasy.

And in a crowd full of cat videos*, there’ll be one clip that speaks to your very soul, about your entire being.

I am, above and beyond, a lover and defender of technology, the internet and social media. But I’ve become very aware of how, much like a flower pot without any drainage holes, it can do some serious damage to our personal growth. Because being plugged in all day, every day – at work and at home – it does far more harm than you think it does. Sometimes, there’s this primal instinct to just need to be on the internet, because the internet is addictive. It really is. It’s one more article. One more conversation. One more email. And then three hours have gone. And then it’s night time and well, let’s just watch Netflix until we fall asleep.

(My nights most nights)

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Do we realise how much that represses our emotions, especially the sad, anxious ones?

The ones I bury deep deep down because I’m distracting myself with technology and the internet, maybe if I didn’t have those, I’d be distracting myself with other things, like friends and music. They’re not bad things, they can be wonderful wonderful things, but either way, I’m diverting. I clearly don’t want to address it.

There’s this one Louis CK rant that I remember so well because it was funny but it also hit a nerve. He talks about how he’s driving and this Bruce Springsteen song comes on the radio and he’s just overcome with sadness. His initial reaction is to grab his phone and text all his friends in the hopes that someone will reply because he needs to feel plugged into the world, needs someone to tell him something to make him feel better. But then he stops and he just let’s himself be sad and it’s beautiful.

That must be something that happens to all of us often. So many times I’m overcome with, not something as serious as depression I don’t think, but more like an anxiety about my life… about all the things I did wrong recently, all the failures I keep locked up, everything I’m embarrassed about. It builds up because each time that happens I usually reach for my phone, or watch TV, or read something on the internet.

But sometimes I will just cry it out because crying is super therapeutic. There’s a strange stigma attached to someone, especially men, crying (hey it’s the patriarchy!). Showing that type of sad emotion… everyone automatically wants it to stop, but crying can release all that pent up bad energy. Like, hey anxiety, I am thinking about you and I’m accepting you and I will let you overwhelm me for now because I have trapped you in for too long.

And every time that happens I’m always switched off. I think that’s essential to anyone’s personal development. No TV, no laptop, no phone. Just having a little cry or sitting alone, in silence. It’s not going to solve all my problems, it’s not going to stop my anxiety, but for however temporary, I feel like I’m here in this moment and I own myself, and not letting my devices own me.

(and then, I’m back on the internet)

*No offence to cat videos, they too can speak to your entire being.

Originally posted in The Banderola (Feb 2016)