This video presents a number of interesting concepts about virtual interaction, social networks, and loneliness, but what I found really interesting was the idea that in a virtual environment we get to edit who we are.
In a way, I agree. In a social media world such as ours, we can delete and change who we want the world to believe we are. Information is a couple of seconds from our reach, so we can appear to be smarter, but given enough time I believe you can’t appear to be someone you’re not.
Because I think that even though most of the virtual interaction that takes place in the form of e-mails, comments, and such is not real time, we still can’t change who we are.
But this doesn’t stop us from trying, which I think only makes the feeling of loneliness worse. When wearing a mask, it’s easy to feel misunderstood. Those who like you with your mask on, you’re afraid won’t like the real you, so they do nothing to kill the feeling that you’re alone.
I believe that interaction, in a virtual environment or the real world, should be genuine, meaning that you have to be honest about who you are, what you want, and what you love and hate. But then again, we’ve been trying to make certain people like us for something we’re not for longer than we can remember.
In a way, the fact that we are social creatures also acts as a burden. We have to have friends, because that’s what people do. Sometimes we don’t feel like it, because as much as society presents us as social creatures, we are also loners. We strive for solitude in ways we rarely acknowledge.
For instance, reading a book. It shuts you off from the world. Even if you read it in the most crowded place you can find, it still acts as a barrier between you and all the other people. The same principle applies to listening to music on your headphones, watching a movie or TV, or staring at a painting in a museum.
Sometimes there’s limited interaction, such as going to see a movie with friends, but that’s not meaningful enough.
What I’m trying to say is that loneliness has always been somewhat frowned upon, and this social media world we live in exploits this. You need friends, followers, fans, likes, and comments to make you feel less lonely. Most of the times, like I said earlier, it doesn’t really work out well, because you’re presenting the world an edited version of yourself.
It’s not you people like, it’s a better version, possibly the best possible version. The best looking, the smartest, the one who is sending an optimized message.
But the same principles apply to real life interactions as well. How often do you say what you really want to say? How often you do speak your mind? How often do you make meaningful conversation?
A friend of mine once told me that he constantly feels that what he wants to say is not important, that what he wants to say doesn’t matter, or people simply wouldn’t care.
The big problem is not whether or not technology is isolating us, or whether or not real interaction is better than virtual interaction; the big problem is that we are less and less willing to be ourselves. In a world that is constantly telling us that we’re equal and the same, it’s getting harder and harder to feel as if our opinions and views really matter.
We have stopped thinking of ourselves as being different, and thus we feel lonely. This is modern man’s paradox. If we believe that there are a bunch of others who are doing the same things we do our initial reaction is to pretend to be someone else. Or to do nothing at all.
The sense that you are not unique breeds passivity.
The only way you can fight loneliness is to realize that you are different from everyone else. Yes, we’re seven or eight billion, but you are different. You are unique. You have a voice, and you have dreams and aspirations, and you have opinions and ideals, and people should listen to them. Whether they care or not, whether they like you, love you, or hate you, it doesn’t matter.
If you accept that you are different, and if you accept that being different is both a blessing and a curse, then you’ll feel less lonely simply because you can build meaningful interaction with those who either agree or disagree with what you have to say.
The biggest problem we have, as social creatures, is that we often talk just to talk, without really saying anything.
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