There's a Mental Disease that is destroying our self-worth, and it spawns from social media
Depression, sadly, doesn't have time for rationale, logic, or reason, as it drags you into a rut, a state of denial fuelled by this negative feedback loop of some kind. The more that end point of bad person is reached, the more you slide back down the chain again - flaw to undesirable to bad person to flaw to undesirable and so on. Each turn of the cycle is a journey further into a black hole. I've seen a lot of lately are the same thinking, the same behaviours, and the same self-deceiving "coping" mechanisms amongst my contemporaries. Too often now we think opening up to a a large quantity of people is good by default, but failing to consider the quality of how you talk about what's on your mind, and who you're talking to. Anyway, a short thesis to begin: social media is a catalyst for self-destructive depression, because it warps how you perceive yourself.
In actual fact, you're looking at a very calculated, branded side of the life you see on screen. Social media's public nature means that people are often (not always) choosy about what they post on there. They take certain aspects of their personalities that they think or want to best represent them. The result is more of a persona, a caricature of the person illuminated with LED light. Reality, however, is far blander. That cute photo of couple aren't cute all the time, they're normally arguing over shopping, working gritty 9 to 5 jobs, or farting in bed. Humans aren't that elegant! Accepting personal mythologies promoted online as fact ultimately leads to disappointment.
Yet visions of flawlessness and total zen with the world seems to be something that many young adults desperately chase after, and it's had disastrous consequences on self-perception. Because of the excessively high standards that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram's definition of a healthy, social person, general happiness becomes a seemingly unattainable goal. Nuance is being lost with social media not just politically, but socially too. In its virtual world, there are beloved socialites and cold-shouldered recluses. In reality on the other hand, people are complicated. Under the surface, even the most happy-go-lucky, fashionable socialite who makes friends with everyone has insecurities, and have bad days they'd rather forget. Most of us are fucked up in one way or another. No one is flawless.
Take solace in thinking of mood as waves, they ebb and flow for everyone. Using the parameters of happiness social media provides, however, these ebbs and flows turn violent. Public discourse exists in a state of bipolarity thanks to social media. There are two sides to everything, and no more. There's right-wing and left-wing, good and evil, happy and depressed, no in-between. Moods can be amplified in accordance with a polarised world, especially when comparing oneself to something which is an idealised and/or radicalised version of that subject.
Living your life through others is a very unfulfilling way to live. Social interactions become tailored to what you think the world wants, and most estimations you make about what you think people want are totally wrong. They don't often want anything from you. They're just taking the world as it comes. In some sense, you become the recommendation algorithms that run the likes of Facebook and Twitter, attempting to reflect what others want. "You like this? Here's some more of what you like. You like that too? Here's some more." And so on. But what this way of life obscures, is your own identity. Existing in a state of constant anxiety of being unsure of who you are, who really likes you, whether your future will be ok, and how long this horrible crisis will end, causes a tremendous amount of harm to self-worth.
What both the collective users and staff of social media will tell you, is that its the ultimate connecting tool. You can message anyone, and broadcast the feelings that are grating you down instantaneously. The clue is in the name - it's 'social'. Surely that's exactly what people need in a dark place of solitude and self-doubt? However, this deceptively ignores the other word in the name, 'media'. The media aspect is what renders the arguments for incorporating it into personal therapy so unbelievably misleading. Media is a form of mass communication in which you project messages out to a wide audience, and this format has a tendency to destroy the personal filter.
In joining social media, you are essentially making yourself a public figure. A very, very minor one, but still a figure acknowledged by a large amount of people within your comparatively tiny world in relation to an actual public figure, such as a politician or a celebrity. Unlike politicians and celebrities however, you shouldn't feel as if you have ANY obligation to share with a large audience or a casual acquaintances what exactly is on your mind. This liberal 'no filter' approach to sharing with whomever I believe to be barely compatible with navigating friendships, because it coaxes the projection of many of your own deeply personal grievances onto people who may not be close enough to you, or not in good enough place themselves to process them.
Don't be mistaken, bottling up your pain and telling no one is very dangerous, and the first thing I would suggest when feeling low is to tell someone close or speak to a professional. But telling anyone is just as dangerous. These intense conversations tread thin ice, words have to be carefully selected in replying to someone who is mentally unstable. Although they might be 'friends' on Facebook, strangers and acquaintances, in most cases, will not know how to deal with this situation because they don't really understand you with the kind of depth a therapist or a parent does. Projecting inner woes onto acquaintances doesn't end well. It scares them off (and quite rightly too), leaving you feeling more isolated, more desperate for connection, and more expecting of a total zen that won't come. This feedback loop isn't where anyone wants to be, but there are steps we can take to navigate the pitfalls of social media.
Arcade Fire draw from Kierkegaard to portray our contemporary digital landscape as a 'reflektor', in which social media's echo chamber reflects exactly what you want and what you feel right back at you. As I've shown, it hurts our self-perception. However, we can navigate our way round the traps of our 'reflektive age'. Making adjustments from these lessons encourages a healthier perception of oneself. Here are some suggestions (I'm not professing these are the cure, obviously)...
1) Don't use social media in a depressed state of mind. It only makes you envy fake virtual personas, and convinces you those personas are real and that you're inadequate. Don't live the lives of others, and take pride in who you are and what you believe in. 2) Be discerning which information you're sharing with people. It's fine to open up a little now and then, but don't feel as if you have to splice open all the contents of your mind to everyone. Having certain boundaries but being flexible in how one enables them builds up a reasoned filter, halting the grave errors of over-projection and over-analysing relationships. Privacy also allows you space to spend some time nurturing yourself, learning to tackle the dark thoughts and embrace the better aspects of you. And 3) keep in mind there are always people to fall back on in the darkest moments. You're always a phone call or text away from a professional, or one of the gifted few in an indifferent world that really know and understand you. They will never turn their back on you.
Reflections will only mime what you feed into them. The reflection bouncing off the glass surface don't bounce you off it, they merely bounce a visual representation of matter through rays of light. As you stare yourself down, you bounce your own conceptions of who you are off it, positive or negative. Social media works very much the same. Every flaw you notice will be put under the microscope, just like scrutinising small outbreaks of acne in the mirror. Take a step back, and look at the overall picture. The person looking back at you is not as bad as you conceive them.