The Ultimate Emptiness of ‘Staying Connected’
Vulnerability, I think, is one of the vital human qualities. We got to experience that uncertainty or an exposed state to break through the fear and restrictions in our life. At times, vulnerability provokes us to search for meaningful connection with fellow humans. It could serves as a path from the infernal atmosphere of loneliness. In real space, when two equally understanding, empathetic individuals are making a conversation, the initial piercing gazes of the listeners/talkers would instill the feeling of vulnerability. But, gradually one’s vulnerable feelings would push towards a purposeful as well as authentic conversation. In person, with a real friend, we want to smash through the discomfort of vulnerability to make a true connection (or at least we feel truly alive). So, one of my gripes about most of social media discussions or chats is that the humans’ all-important vulnerability is cleverly separated. I am not saying Facebook eradicates human vulnerability, but that it provides a chance to keep those feelings away. Gradually, as we develop our own digital projections in the digital-scape we become reluctant to disclose our vulnerability.
When we avoid the moments or a gesture that reveals us to others, I think we also lose the ability to create a genuine bond or deep conversation. Of course, the digital world isn’t intent in robbing us of making profound connection. It just gives you a choice: to be vulnerable and be authentically yourself; or to embrace a robust-looking digital projection. Given such a choice, I also would (and often had) pick up the easy option of shedding vulnerability to assume a false superiority. Not being yourself and being a projection of yourself gives you no emotional risk that accompanies a genuine companionship. Eventually, these tools which wants us to stay connected, only breeds loneliness and to showcase empty feelings. Yes, in real spaces too, we may know lot of people, but none to really confide in. We may feel disconnected from others and loneliness creeps up while going for alleged fun trip with friends. Developing close bonds with other persons definitely requires great investment of time, and the new technologies really can be a boon in cultivating such bonds.
Alas, the digitalscape gives people a place to hide their true feelings, to be inauthentic, and to create social bonds with shaky foundations. What we often get is an illusion of companionship. We don’t feel the emotional risk of losing this digital companionship. We can just un-friend them over a single misconstrued or even authentic comment. We can congratulate upon our Facebook friends’ professional achievements, while suppressing our own envy or vice-versa: to give away an illusion of sharing the sadness, while inherently feeling happy for their downfall. Of course, Social media doesn’t turn us into a bad person with feelings of jealousy and rage, but a little stroll (or stalking) through an emotionally disconnected friends’ timeline could make you feel that ‘everyone is going having a fun time (posting all these exuberant selfies) while I am just lamenting alone’. Since ancient times, humans tend to overestimate others’ happiness. In the digital era, the barrage of others’ smiling pictures only sharpens that feelings of loneliness or widens the emptiness in our heart. We always believe that our life’s not measuring up when compared to others. Maybe the people addicted to posting smiling selfies of themselves wants to reassure themselves that their life’s as good as other persons.
For many who aren’t able to open their Facebook account for a day or two, couple of fears creeps in: what if I had missed or stayed out of touch from lot of things; what if my fb friends don’t even notice that I am absent for couple of days? The first fear had even led psychologists to coin a term known as ‘FOMO’ – Fear of Missing Out. It’s a constant fear that others will have rewarding experiences while one is absent from those spaces. Psychologists state that FOMO could become a permanent mental state, making us to always search for a better, interesting connection. The thing about the FOMO state is that it can give one different kinds of connection, but never the feeling that it is a better connection. In a Tyler Durden manner, we can say it like this “We make connections we don’t need with feelings or emotions we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like”. Many of the modern marketing and advertising companies uses FOMO (don’t we feel bad when our friend say that he got this wonderful smartphone on a express deal, while we didn’t knew about it at all) to benefit their growth. The other fear of people not noticing our absence also accentuates one’s void state. In fact this second fear arrives, whenever we skim over the surface of existence with feeble emotional investments. All the information is available at the tip of our fingers. We can type something into google and skim through surface to understand the information. But we can’t do the same with friendships; we just can’t type in functional words and think that you have made a genuine connection.
After getting away from Facebook, tumblr, instagram, etc for a week or two or a month (or forever), one could experience the silence (an inner silence). This inner silence slowly sheds away our desensitized feelings and increases the patience. We can read a lot (discover the magical feeling of reading from a paperback), cultivate or test our artistic talents. Facebook or other social media can keep us connected with talented individuals (and we may learn a thing or two from them). But, from personal experiences I feel that constantly checking up Facebook only robs off our talents (however small or uncultivated they are), in the longer run and obliterates our patience. The great American poet, essayist, and philosopher said in his book ‘Walden, Or Life in the Woods’: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In this modern world of concrete jungles, it would do us good if we do an experiment like Thoreau, but the least we could do is get away from this fanciful-photo posting, speculations-spewing, unnecessary jealousy-inciting, empty connections-forging ‘social media’. Let’s search for something authentic in both the virtual and real space and re-discover the real meaning of staying connected rather than send off friend requests on all directions.