Usually these rants aim to inspire people and offer guidance and advice, however today, to be honest, I don't feel up to it. These last few days I have been feeling really overwhelmed by everything - nothing specific - just everything. There seems to be so many pieces of my life which require vigilant attention that I can't keep up with it all. There is always something I need to be doing, an email I need to reply to, a bill I haven't paid, a consideration I need to keep in mind while making a decision. Bits and pieces and no order.
A few days ago I deactivated my facebook account. I don't know exactly why, but it felt like the right thing to do. Despite the fact that today my friend logged onto my computer and inadvertently reactivated it (oops haha) the days I spent without it were extremely interesting. I think for the most part, avoiding facebook has become a way of hiding from the world. That's what it is for me anyway. If I don't want to deal with people, I log off. I think it's ironic that they call it a "news feed," because for me that's exactly what it is. It's like perpetual force feeding of stimulation. It seems to say YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS NOW. YOU NEED TO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING ON IN PEOPLE'S LIVES AT ALL TIMES.
It's true that deactivating my facebook was a profound disconnect. I literally did not know what was going on at all in my friend's lives. I missed my friend's birthday party on Saturday night, and didn't find out that one of my friends was in a horrific bike accident and broke his nose. In a sense I feel negligent that I wasn't checking my facebook to find out these things. In another sense, I feel angry at the way social media has shaped our culture. I'm not that old, but I can remember in primary school and high school when I would talk for hours to my friends on my parent's landline. They would actually call me and want to engage one on one in a conversation. This would be how I would find out about things that were going on. Now it's like people have their own personal billboards which they update with public announcements, and it's become both our obligation and our responsibility to be perpetually aware of what's going on.
I just read a few articles about how social media functions to exacerbate our existing personal insecurities and narcissistic tendencies. The writers mentioned a few points to explain this.
1. What people put on facebook is hardly realistic. People tend to post things which put an overly positive spin on their lives, that is, deliberately avoiding the challenges or the not-so-glamorous aspects of their existence. For instance, there seems to be a whole lot of parents posting cute photos of their perfect children, and not so many images of said children puking on them.
2. There is also what the authors coined "vaguebooking" which is when people allude to their problems or concerns, but in a totally non specific way. This was described as an attention seeking gesture to elicit sympathy, while avoiding being honest about what's going on. So, when a large percentage of our social interaction consists of social media we arguably are not really seeing our friends, family and acquaintances the way they really are. We are seeing them essentially through their own filter. Is this healthy? I don't know that it is.
3. Facebook seems, to me at least, to be fundamentally about objectification and commodification of oneself. Our profile is a snapshot of ourselves that we create in order to present ourselves in a particular way. We choose what photos we want displayed and what aspects of our life we want publicized. We make ourselves into something, and in doing so create ourselves as an object. Similamarly, our friends become commodities when our goal is to have as many as possible. We become like curators of "things" which show us to be the way we want to be seen. We create photo albums so that we can "own" what has happened to us in our lives, so that we can own the fact that we went to Paris or that we enjoyed a picnic.
4. Being on facebook is sort of like being at a large party all the time. We are bombarded with information about things that are going on - what people look like, who we like or don't like, the major events occurring in people's lives - to an unprecedented level. I can't think of any other time in history when we would have known so much about other people's lives. At the same time, we simultaneously don't know people at all. How often do we sit down with people in our lives and have meaningful conversations? Conversations where we talk about ideas, and talk through our own thoughts and beliefs, sharing what we know and believe while at the same time allowing the other person to share and learn too? Conversations where we look into someone else's eyes and engage with them on a profoundly personal level? Where the conversation stops being something that we create and participate in in order to get our point across, but where the point is to understand and listen?
It is clear to me that my life is overstimulated. Yes, even without alcohol, cacao, tv, coffee or anything like that, I am overstimulated. My body suffers because my mind is perpetually outside of my body, engaging in ever updated information. I know this because when I do sit down to meditate or even just to self reflect, the thoughts that I have been smothering with continuous bombardment of information start flooding so rapidly that I can barely keep up with them, let alone empty my mind. It feels a bit like I am mentally procrastinating from my own internal needs and processes by keeping my mind occupied with "news feeds." It is unsurprising then that I feel overwhelmed and stressed.
So there you have it. Reality. I am going to try and live in it a lot more from now on.