I find it fascinating to witness this massive shift from real time connection to an almost synthetic, technological one. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves, we spend most of our life “plugged” in, connecting to others and building our digital profiles; tailoring them to complete precision. I’m curious about how this affects our brain, I wonder what consequences this new behaviour will have on humanity? What is this future going to look like? How might this change our psychological make-up?
Similar to many people my age, I spend a lot of time scrolling mindlessly through social media. I love looking through other people’s photos and seeing who liked mine, it’s a great indulgent and I’m essentially addicted to it. But just like any indulgent, chocolate cake or social media, its usually better for me to consume in moderation. Yet unlike chocolate cake, the consequences of over-indulging in social media are not immediately evident. However, I’m beginning to notice how easy it is to feel disconnected from reality when I skim through beautiful image after beautiful image of friends and strangers leading the most perfect, enviable lives. According to social media everyone is happy and living the best life. Of course no one wants post pictures of their boring dead-end jobs or a selfie when they look like garbage, but sometimes I forget that these normal aspects of daily life are still happening, they’re just not reported.
While walking to work the other day, I called a friend. She was venting to me about a job she feels incapable of doing. She tells me she’s worried she’ll be fired and forced to move back home, giving up her perfect apartment that she only just got the lease on.
I also get messages on Facebook from my friend who’s breaking up with her boyfriend; a guy she moved to Sydney for and is on a partnership visa with. She built her life around him and now its all falling apart.
And then there is my flatmate, whom I always find sitting alone on our balcony. She has Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, stage 4, “there are no more stages” she tells me. She will be going through radiation. I can’t find the words to comfort her, I can’t fully wrap my head around the very concept of it.
These are just the varying degrees of life – the nuisances, insecurities, heartbreaks and downright tragedies. We all have them, we all endure them. They are just a few examples of the people in my close network and the bare truth of the issues they find themselves in. It’s just a small snapshot of life behind closed doors, behind instagram filters. Unless you have reached an impermeable sense of spiritual enlightenment, it might be true that you also find yourself struggling at times. Maybe you are right at this very minute. Perhaps you’re caring about things you know you shouldn’t, or attaching yourself to people who don’t deserve it, or maybe you’re fighting through a debilitating mental or physical illness. We are all constantly adapting to life’s new circumstance of events and being forced to improvise on the spot.
It makes me wonder what is actually going on in the worlds of people I cross paths with, from colleagues to strangers on the street, I wonder what their current struggle is? How do they find the motivation to pull themselves through tragic times? I wonder what goes on behind the screens of what seems like a perfect life according to their social media posts?
The other night I found myself feeling inconsolable for the first time in a long time. While I laid in my bed, swarmed and overwhelmed in depressing thoughts, I reached for my phone and opened social media to distract myself. But while I took in these images of my friends and their happy, perfect and joyful lives, it only made me feel even more alienated. It felt like I was the only one in the world suffering.
I heard my phone buzz and got a message from my friend, she was dealing with her own hardships and needed an outlet to cry. “I just wanna take away this pain, cut it out and lock it up somewhere far away” she told me, I felt it too. After telling her that I had a horrible night myself she apologized for bringing her problem to me when I had my own issues. I was grateful, I told her. There was no filter to her emotions, she was just raw and vulnerable and real. It made me feel less alone.
Life is not always as joyous as our social media profiles may make it seem. And although this is obviously not a new realization, I do think it’s easy to forget that people are struggling when we’re constantly bombarded with images of the opposite.
So if you find yourself feeling completely alone in your misery right now, I’m here to remind you that you aren’t alone. That picture on Instagram or Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg, there is much more going on behind the scenes. Remember that.