I’ve had this idea mulling around in my head for awhile, but I have been somewhat reluctant to publish it. It’s regarding the illusion of a person’s online presence, and how easy it is to misconstrue where someone might be in their life, based on casually viewing their social media. It seems like we are growing ever more used to visually “checking in” with the people we know, and basing our ideas of where they’re at from the pictures they post, the links they share, the sporadic one-liners talking about movies seen, or restaurants dined in. We form opinions based on a smattering of random breadcrumbs, with the gaps being filled by those of us viewing the profile.
All these things can give a rather false representation of the people in our lives. Or perhaps more accurately, they absolve us of feeling the need to physically check-in with them, because we assume that everything is fine, based on their status updates.
This has been rolling around a lot in my mind recently because I myself have been seriously struggling for the past few months. As I’ve mentioned previously, for the most part, I have a very strict “If I don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” policy. Which means days stretch into weeks, which turn into months, and then it feels like I am never posting anything anymore. I’m writing a lot; I just write it down in private journals, my hand muscles cramping from all the words I’ve put to page this year. But much of it is talking about fears, insecurities, feeling like I don’t measure up compared to my peers, my deep depression surrounding looking for work. I’ve kept it all to myself – in my head, in my house. And people assume that because I post pictures like this…
…that everything is great. It’s sunny and bright, and I look happy, so things must be going well, right? That’s what I would assume if I saw it. It’s what I do assume when I see other people’s postings. Updates about engagements and new babies, and interesting work projects; it becomes increasingly easier to make assumptions about where people are at, rather than actually asking them. Instead we distill volumes into text messages. Fit it into 140 characters. Leave it open to interpretation. Wonder why we feel so disconnected from those around us, despite having more “friends” than ever before. And all the while in our connectedness, I think many of us are feeling lonelier, and trapped inside our own heads. I’ve become lazy in this regard, and it is only now that I’m so deeply feeling the isolation myself, that I see it’s my own fault. I’m the one who’s constructed this artificial ”online me” that is eternally positive, certain of my life’s path, someone who knows what she’s doing and where she’s going.
But the secret is, none of us know. Many of us are scared and struggling, and putting on a brave face to keep up online appearances. Personally, in the last few months I’ve suffered debilitating panic attacks that have kept me from socializing at events, a heart crushing breakup, and daily feelings of failure and inadequacy at my inability to locate gainful employment in this city. It has been rough. I have been silent.
No one wants to read incessant negative posts on their timelines, on their twitter feeds. But at the same time, I think there is also a yearning for authenticity—to find solace in knowing that you aren’t the only one who doesn’t have it figured out.
None Few of us have; some of us are just better at putting on that face. You are not alone.
I don’t know what the answer is. Get out and see the people who mean something to you. Tell them you love them. Ask them how they’re doing (how they’re really doing). And then listen as best as you can.
Mostly… keep going. It’s all any of us can do.