We are living in an increasingly obsessive, self-conscious and narcissistic universe.
Of course, we already know this. But what we refuse to acknowledge is the following: how utterly detrimental these collective traits are to our ability to live freely and individually.
You might think you know this already, but do you really? When you, too, are guilty of deleting an Instagram post within the first five minutes of posting it, simply because the anxiety induced by not getting enough likes in that time was too excruciating to bear. The act of posting the ‘right’ things online has become a life-or-death decision for teenagers and young adults of today, placing an unnatural amount of pressure upon online personas from a worryingly juvenile age. They have to exhibit a self-made image of ourselves, which both adheres to unwritten codes of popular culture, but also subverts them just enough to stand out from the crowd. It is a tricky game in which we are seldom victorious.
As the first adolescent generation to be confronted with this access-all-areas permit to the worldwide web, our online personas have become essential rather than optional, rendering the thought of growing up without them quite impossible. What would we do without the alternate reality of Kylie Jenner? Her social media is merely a shameless homage to her family’s limitless wealth. It is nauseating, yet we continue to scroll and scroll.
The distressing and anxiety-inducing feeling when you plummet from such hedonistic celebrity standards, to the far more real and achievable ground-level reality of our own, becomes a self-harming cycle. So why do we do it to ourselves? The image celebrities project is not real, just like the images we ourselves project through our own social medias are not real either. All social media outlets are ultimately platforms for false and entirely contrived ideals. Which is why stepping back from such behavior makes us see how truly bizarre it really is. We are obsessing over a set of unwritten cyber ‘rules’, laid down by some unknown, ultimate authority. We are becoming a joke, whilst social media resides in its tower as the all-triumphant joker.
Apps such as Snapchat incur unhealthy conditions of anxiety over the fear of missing out, leading us to feel dissatisfied with the reality we are currently in. Technology can transport you to another time and space instantly, and the more we indulge in this process the more we will resent the life we have been given. Scary, isn’t it. That we are consenting to this exploitation of our insecurities by apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. They earn billions off the backs of our own unhappiness.
Of course, on the flipside, we do benefit from this interconnected forum. Meme culture has paved the way for a universal humour, specific and sacred to our youth philosophy. Such a shared feeling is comforting and consoling, it uplifts us and thrashes common feelings of isolation. But this wholesome recognition that the world ‘gets you’, does not, in any way, cancel out or draw any less attention to the internet as a leading anxiety-inducer. Social media is a diverse place, in which some people find solace, but where many others find utter misery and dissatisfaction with themselves. Social Media Anxiety Disorder is a thing. As far back as 2013, Julie Spira, a cyber-relations expert, composed a list of SMAD symptoms for The Huffington Post. They included relentless minute-by-minute checking of recent posts, as well as staring at the number of followers on your Twitter until it goes down by one and you begin to despair.
Using such terms as ‘symptoms’ and ‘diagnosis’ make everything seem too terrifying to confront. But it doesn’t have to be. Spira concludes:
‘At the end of the digital day, understand that we live in a busy world that operates 24/7.’
She’s right. Our generation knows no off-switch. It is something we have to discover ourselves, a way to survive and live happily without being dependent upon online affirmation. Technology will only continue to advance into our living, breathing lives. It is up to us now, to learn when to say the simple words: ‘No more’.