Social Media & the New Normal

by Val Christopher

How am I feeling lately? Nobody really cares, I’m sure. At least not anyone who might have happened by this article. Though just in case my aunt is reading- I’m doing okay. I’m happy with many things in my life. I’m unhappy about many things in my life. I suppose, I’m normal.

What a curse: to be normal. Life didn’t go as planned. Compromise and change abound as we all continue through what it is to be normal.

One change I’ve found to be a dream come true turned detriment to our culture is social media. Is there anything social about our attachment to words on screens hidden behind avatars of people you’ll never actually meet? I don’t think so. Then again, I was born in the late 70s. I didn’t get my first computer until I was 22.

I rarely meet people anymore. I do communicate with what I assume are people everyday. Tertiary friendships with thousands of strangers is all I have anymore. Might that have something to do with my feeling more and more normal as I grow older? As I rail against the absurdity of our digital culture, I become more or less a slave to it.

Normal was something I never wanted to be as a young artist. Now I am just that. Am I still an artist? I don’t know anymore. It’s difficult to collaborate with anyone in two minutes of reading text written from the other side of the country. Collaboration with anyone these days is rare. Spontaneous 2am jam sessions don’t happen nearly as often now as they did in my twenties. Hard for that to happen when all the stringed & percussion instruments are spread out in rooms all over the globe.

In lieu of the 5 piece amateur band, I binge watch HBO and Netflix. Sounds familiar, I’m sure. It’s normal. When I was doing my first professional theatre at 15, training in NYC at 19 and performing around the world through my twenties, I never set a goal to binge watch TV. I expected you to know my name by now. That was part of my goal. While the idea of fame is nearer to revolting than anything else now, it does not remove my need to connect with you. Goals change. My need for community has not.

How are you feeling lately? Not many here will care very much, I’m sure. But I do. The unfortunate part of the question I’ve posed is, I will most definitely not be answered. That’s the wonder of social media. The change of what it now means to be social isn’t very social. Sometimes as I type away, asking questions, almost literally begging for response, I feel like a worshipper of one of the thousands of mythical gods, calling out to no one. The difference being, those wailing at a wall or down on their knees in prayer can conjure their own responses. The abyss is metaphorical in religion. On social media, it is an absolute reality. So when I ask, “How are you”, I may not get any response at all.

Not getting a response is a part of why I feel just okay these days. Not getting any response is why I feel normal. How hideous. That leaves me with two options in a way: to find my community of artists or join the majority of humanity, rely on gods to create that community for me. I think I may just stand pat. Somehow that makes me feel a lot less normal. I feel better now.