I had more Facebook friends this year than I’d ever had before, and I’d never felt so lonely in my life. There were less than five people on the planet whom I felt comfortable confiding in, whom it wouldn’t have been completely out of place to say “hello there, how have you been doing? I was just diagnosed with depression and anxiety last December.” I love a good conversation more than anything, and I have always been an open book by nature, ready to delve into deep matters and personal issues with people I barely knew. But despite the many acquaintances I made in first year, and the happy moments and achievements, I’d never felt so shut off from the world, as though every answer I gave was expected to be light, positive, a mere scratch on the surface of what my nights were really like.
Social media is a highlight reel. Our real lives are dusty, scratched up drafts, sketches with smudged eraser marks and missing lines. When brightly coloured, laughing pictures are constantly shoved in our faces, it’s strange how we can want things we’d never cared about before. When watching someone who appears to be happy, it’s so easy to think, “I would be happy if I were doing that too,” when very often, that isn’t the case at all. There develops a fear of missing out even on things we would’ve chosen to miss out on anyway. Everyone goes to extreme lengths to construct the most positive image of themselves on their profiles, and feels obliged to uphold it offscreen as well, resulting in such a lack of deeper understanding and connection.
Liking a profile picture or favouriting a tweet has now become the equivalent of sending a message to say hi. There is no effort involved with “keeping in touch” because “everything” is displayed for the public. We think we know all the news about everyone and no longer bother to dig deeper. One click, less than a second, is all it takes to show “support.” We stack up our total of likes at the end of the day and rest assured that we are popular, desired, approved of. How many followers? How many views? Quantity is everything. But what did the hundreds of likes on my pictures serve when I was crying to sleep every night?
Our minds have grown so used to the over-stimulation that a smartphone can provide, so much that merely our surroundings are unworthy of full attention. It is a contest of multi-tasking; how many things can we focus on at once? I am but one thing, one human, insignificant and incomparable next to the riches that the internet provides. I can’t compete. While I knew that I was truly loved, it didn’t always feel like it when no one glanced up from their phones when I came in a room. So many times, I would trail off in the middle of a sentence and my “listener” wouldn’t even have noticed. I wanted to shout, “look at me! I’m right here! Am I not interesting enough for you to listen to? Am I not good enough to be the only thing you look at? For just five minutes, am I not good enough to alleviate your boredom?”
I craved human company more than anything else this year. Not just frosh week acquaintances, but real company. I wanted to be held. I wanted someone to ask me something other than what I was majoring in. I wanted the luxury of sitting still with a person, without watching a video or scrolling aimlessly through social media. I wanted that peace of mind, that quiet, that warmth, that alert awareness of being fully present in a moment. My mind was restless enough as it was; I longed for serenity without the confusion of five open tabs.
I’m not the only one. Who are we fooling with our carefully constructed highlight reels? Ourselves, everyone else, or both? I want moments that are good enough to keep to myself, good enough to not require the approval of a hundred likes, good enough to remember without the selfies. I want meaning, so much more meaning in every word and action than the careless glances we spare off our screens.
I have never disapproved of technology, nor wished for less knowledge. I am actually quite thankful for the convenience it allows. What I have a problem with is the excessive use of it. A healthy relationship can only be maintained when all parties are capable of being happy independently. Our relationship with technology has crossed that line. The result is that we constantly need to be reassured of its presence; we cling to the illusion of connection with all of the world, at the expense of those right in front of us. I take offense that as a flesh and blood being, with body, mind, and soul, with thoughts and emotions and life to share, I still stand second place to a superficial Facebook feed that you can scroll through anytime on a small plastic device. Look up. Look at me.