In the days before social media pulled back the curtain on our private lives, exposing our nakedness, our shame, our triggers and personality disorders, people with mental health vulnerabilities were confined to their respective communities where they were viewed as oddities.
The girl who walked about with Tourette, for example, or the man who plastered his walls with newspaper clippings and wild curse words projecting that THE END IS NEAR, was treated with kid gloves and often given a wide berth.
They weren't performers for an Internet circus, their eccentricities weren't captured for laughs by those who find entertainment in illness. But times have changed, it seems, and so too has our palate for the distasteful.
Today, it's fashionable to be sensational. Viral is the new currency. Making sensational and offensive comments is the new in thing, because if anything, it would create a buzz and get you views. Any mention is a good mention, and there are those of us who will do and say anything to trend. In this clamor to push to the top of conversation, the antics of the manic and the clout chaser are in a neck and neck race to the finish. It's sad.
If I've learned anything since starting to use social media in the early 2000s, it's the obvious- social networking platforms, marketed as a way to connect friends, families and professional acquaintances, can sometimes bring out and highlight the worst in us while big tech companies farm and monetize our data. And these companies aren't gonna care if one is sane or not because they're not in the mental health business. You don't have to prove your mental faculties to sign on, create an account, add friends, rant
But even though one may be allowed access to a thing, it doesn't mean it's good for everyone's use. And social media is like that tempting thing that really isn't for everyone. My friends, how many times have you scrolled past a post published by a proud content creator where you cringed and thought, maybe this was not something to share with the world? Just this past week, I saw a video posted by a proud and giggly mom whose daughter complained about the mom's body odor. I kid you not.
Modesty, I daresay, struggles to find a space in the 21st century. Reticence is ridiculed. If you choose not to use social platforms for their toxicity and intrusiveness, perhaps because you value your privacy, then you're a dinosaur. And so, it's cool to offer yourself up on a public altar to be splayed, prodded, sliced opened and examined.
When we were younger, my husband had this funny saying when something ridiculous happened. He'd say, Stop the world, I wanna get off. Sometimes it feels like that. It feels like your horror is misplaced, because while you're clutching your pearls and gasping, cringing from second hand embarrassment, the world around you is laughing or pressing share. You're like a sepia bleed on a painting that's all technicolor. It's a sad feeling, really.
In addition to making ridiculous memes of persons in the throes of mental illness, or oversharing, there are those of us who, perhaps because of our profession, use social media without fully understanding the rules of engagement and polite conversation and social etiquette. While social media may be modern tools to communicate, I'd say the rules of polite behavior and discourse have not changed. We simply ignore them now.
This past week, for example, I saw an ugly spat between huge influencers descend into ageist insults and nasty, crass cusswords.
I saw the further descent of a people addicted to the drug of likes, shares, and engagement- a drug that is far more insidious and arguably almost as damaging as street drugs.
And I'll be honest. I don't hold myself above the fray. At one time, in fact, I was hooked on being social, so much so that I too was trapped in this constant pursuit of popularity.
And honestly, at the time, I didn't think about the fact that, unfortunately, in my quest to be considered an 'influencer', I neglected other aspects of my life, my real life, where I did in fact have real influence and not merely an algorithmic simulation of it which could be erased at the snap of a finger.
Eventually, thankfully, I woke to the realization that I was rapidly becoming another lab rat in a social experiment that I didn't sign up for, and I checked out.
Now, I surf, I read, I try to learn, and from time to time, if I have something I'd like to share that I think might be noteworthy, if even to a few people, I post- probably not every day, I'll concede, because I don't have something to share everyday and I don't feel pressured to post just for the sake of posting, but I'll post when I have something to say. Period. This, of course, is my process.
And so, tell me, friends, what are your thoughts about social media? Do you think it's simply a valuable tool to connect with others, nothing more or less? Do you think the pros outweigh the cons? Or are you, like me, slowly detangling yourself from the web and experiment that has kept us all in chains for the past two decades or so?
I'd love to hear your views.
Image sourced from Pixabay.