February 1, 2013

Has The Internet Made Life In Our 20s Worse?

 Thought Catalog Flickr
Thought Catalog Flickr

Think about how much time you spend each day making sure no one thinks you’re crazy. You follow all the social rules, you don’t send your crush a text message unless it’s been seen and processed by a team of experts, you don’t leave the house until you’ve changed at least four times. “I’m wearing this new designer,” you tell the imaginary crowds. “It’s called InsEcUrIty by Insecurity For ‘Nsecurity…”

You dedicate so much of your energy into reassuring near-strangers that you are totally normal. You are not weird! When you enter a house party, there’s no need for a record scratch. Promise! Check out your Facebook and Twitter too. It’s completely fine. The right amount of funny and smart. You’re not posting pictures of you drunk eating tacos in an alleyway. You’re not tweeting mean things about your ex because that would be nuts! Talk about oversharing….

Right, right, right. But you know what’s perhaps more nuts than posting unflattering pictures of yourself on Facebook? Caring so much about what COMPLETE STRANGERS think of you. We’re not even talking about your best friends, your significant other, or your family—people whose opinions really should matter to you. We’re talking about you stressing out and losing sleep over complete randoms. People who, despite never having played a major role in your life, still, in some small way, dictate your daily life decisions.

The whole thing makes me think: were our parents’ generation ever this concerned about their image? Probably not. Growing up with the Internet and using social media as our main source of validation has definitely left our self-esteem on permanent shaky ground. We willingly live our lives under a microscope now, our every move having the potential to be criticized by everyone from exes to acquaintances to our weird aunt who lives in Ohio. It’s no exaggeration to say that social media has completely changed the way we think about ourselves—for better and for worse. As I mentioned before, a “like’ on an Instagram picture or a retweet is one of our main sources of validation. It’s basically someone’s way of telling you, “Go you. Your life looks excellent today. Your brain is in tip-top shape. I am jealous!” However, it can also work against you when you put something out there that garners no response. Then your insecurities rise to the surface and push your hubris aside. All of a sudden, you go from thinking, “My friends and I are so cute. I am so funny!” to “Do I look hideous in that picture? Was that a really dumb thing to tweet? AM I JUST REALLY DUMB AND UGLY?” What social media giveth, it must also taketh away.

With the Internet, we’ve all become obsessive curators of our own lives, which doesn’t seem particularly healthy because, for one thing, it doesn’t help us with the whole “being spontaneous and living in the moment” thing. For another, it’s turned our generation into one big raw nerve. We’re so self-conscious. So paranoid. We’re constantly comparing what our lives look like to those of our peers because, well, we can. The Internet serves as a giant Other People’s Lives buffet. At any given moment, we can go and snack on someone else’s life and either feel terrible or overjoyed that we’re not them.

In your twenties, people typically possess a strange intoxicating mixture of self-doubt and confidence. Coupled with technology, though, everything has become magnified. For someone who already struggles with insecurity, websites like Facebok can be their own version of self-harming. When they look at pictures of someone like their ex’s new significant other, it’s basically a form of cutting.

Here’s the thing about the Internet: it can be great. It can be an amazing tool. It can make your day. Blah, blah, blah. If relied on too heavily, though, it can just turn you into an insecure wreck. Life is already weird and hard on its own. There are a myriad of things that are out of our control that will make us question our outfit choices, our relationships, our so-called sanity. So let’s not have the Internet and social media complicate things any more than they have to be. Don’t go on Instagram or Facebook until you have a degree in “I Ran Out Of Fucks To Give.” Otherwise, it’ll just cause you a bunch of unneeded anxiety. Try to live your life strictly for yourself and for the the people who really mater. Getting a good Instagram picture out of it should just be a nice little bonus. TC Mark