Ever feel “all alone” in this big world? Even in the most crowded public places or in rooms filled with familiar faces, you might find yourself slowly fading away; placing yourself in a corner and watching actions unfold in front of you, but not with you. It is fun and even entertaining for a while. It can, surprisingly, be a way of relaxing, because you can just let go of all your thoughts and merely observe the scenery without judgement, but rather “as is.” It certainly provides a different perspective and can tell you a lot about people.
There are countless research articles published outlining in detail the crisis of mental health in teens and young adults, but I believe that this topic affects everyone; no matter the age or background, there is no hiding from it. Social media has not made the situation any easier. But even before the internet and social media apps, we found ourselves “burdened” with jealousy, sadness and inequality; it just was not as public or shared with everyone we know and don’t know. Social media platforms have provided many positive ways of creating bonds; from connecting with family and friends across the globe to staying up-to-date with current events throughout all branches of entertainment and news outlets without having to spend money on magazine and newspapers. As the information changes, we can obtain the most current updates instantaneously. That in itself is incredible! However, the overload of information can also be overwhelming and highlighting the areas we personally experience inadequacy. In “the old days” we overheard conversations about people vacationing in beautiful places, shopping at Oxford Street in London, or just eating at fancy restaurants, but all those activities occurred without any proof unless you got together to look at printed photographs; no filters, no edits, no fake add-ons or stickers. And most importantly, a story to go with every picture – told in a way that made you feel like you were part of it somehow.
Now, we get a constant stream of pictures from everyone we follow, like or potentially know. It’s like a digital throw-up and we start feeling alone, because life happened seemingly happened without our presence! We didn’t get to go on vacation. We didn’t eat a fancy meal at a high-end restaurant. We can’t afford shopping in London. We don’t get to hang out with all those cool and hip people! We are here; detached, eating a peanut butter/jelly sandwich out of a brown paper bag, dreaming of travelling the world and having any kind of adventure.
No matter how old you are, this hits everyone the same, I think. But keep in mind that everything we see is a snapshot; a split second of a 24 hour day! We don’t know what the scene truly looked like after the picture was taken, how many arguments took place, who got stuck with the bill, if their 10 shopping bags from expensive stores were empty and staged, if the boat they stood next to was the one they sailed on or how much in debt they accumulated due to the trip/vacation. Maybe they are posting the pictures to hide behind their own insecurities; to show others that their opinion of THEM is wrong, because “LOOK what I am doing” and LOOK “where I am”.
And then there are the keyboard cowboys who feel entitled to “attack” from afar and maybe even hiding behind false names and profile picture. Do they attack because they are bullies or because they also have insecurities and want what YOU have, even though YOU feel like you want what OTHERS have. It’s like a Merry-Go-Around. How do we really know? How much of the information shared publicly is true and how much of the writing is informative and educational to raise awareness versus creating a culture of anger, aggression, confusion and division?
No matter your age, everyone feels inadequate at times, maybe even all the time, but it is up to each single one of us to decide what and who we follow. If people or social media outlets make us feel ‘less than’, we need to rid ourselves of FOMO and unfollow, delete and unplug. Do you even know who you are without your social handle? Can you go out in the world and BE yourself; truly be your authentic and uncannily self? Strike up conversations with people in line at the store? Call the customer help line and talk through a problem to fix something? Sit in silence while waiting for the bus? Not looking at your phone? Not texting? Waiting to get home to tell your story? Visit a big city like NYC and find your way through it with a paper map or asking people for directions versus using your phone as a GPS?
In a world in which we want to live, engage in and experience everything life has to offer, we often find ourselves burdened with having to hide behind a façade just so people like us. We so desperately want to be our authentic self, but are fronted with so much inauthentic information and close-mindedness. We all want to belong! And we do! This world belongs to everyone equally. We only get this one life. Why wait for permission to actually LIVE it? You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. A great and audacious way to “stand out” from the crowd is to unplug, be adventurous, and go live life detached from wires and being trapped behind screens. The REAL world is not always kind, but will certainly provide an insight look to all it has to offer (good, bad, ugly) if you are willing and brave enough to SEE it.
It’s a big world out there. Why make it purposely small by viewing it through an 8-inch screen, confining ourselves in a small room, desperately reaching out while sitting alone. Free yourself by breaking out of the many layers of societal constrains. You never know who you will meet and the life you can create. Finding our life’s purpose might only be possible if we are willing to unmask, let go of digital alterations and enter the world with grace, compassion, caring, and readiness to fail, falter, learn and unlearn. It might be lonely at times (I know), but at least it’s REAL. And who knows, along the way you might actually find people just like yourself who are looking for similar things. How amazing would that be?
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