Social Media: The Facade

I’m going to walk in the park with my dog. We come up to this big hill, that we always climb in this park (because she loves it but I don’t) and come up to the vast city skyline in the distance. As we approach the top, the stench of the Water Treatment Plant dances over the hill and up my nostrils. Ick. At the top of the hill is an old picnic table with a garbage can beside it. Somehow people “miss” the garbage rather frequently and it ends up strewn occasionally around the grass. As I’m walking I reflect heavy heartedly, as per usual, on the things I’m anxious about. Sometimes menial things- a home I must clean, a to-do list of various tasks that need to be done, yet another course to take. But, when my mind pushes past the menial tasks, it confronts several consecutive, immovable walls that read:

“I am lonely because I have few friends in the city in which I live.”

“I am afraid I will never have my own classroom or become a permanent teacher.”

“I am afraid I will never be able to move back home.”

“I am frustrated because it feels like my life is constantly in transition.”

“I feel silly and guilty for feeling sad and anxious about small things.”

“I wonder if I’ll ever be confident in myself.”

And all of these things together- the hill, the smell, the park, the thoughts- would give anyone a view into my life. Perhaps they could relate. Perhaps they could not. But it would be an honest view into my life.

But instead, while these thoughts swirl in my head and the smell drifts through my nose, I point my iPhone camera at the skyline in the distance, where Detroit and Windsor seem to converge into one tall standing, beautiful, city. I raise the camera high enough that you cannot see the water treatment plant, or the garbage. And snap. I add a filter to make it look “hip” and lie to myself and you, with the caption “What a beautiful day!”

I sell it to you, and you buy it. You buy with your likes, and your comments.

And I do not lie to you because I dislike you. No, in fact quite the opposite. I like you and I want to be accepted by you. I want to be validated.

So I begin this cyclical dance between us, where I lie to you, and you validate my lie, and in turn validate me, and my need for acceptance in satiated for another day.

And we both know, it’s not just me. I do the same for you. We live in a technological age of lying to each other in desire of acceptance. We critique and modify and censor our thoughts and our pictures and share them with our friends and family and say, “Look at my wonderful life.” Everyone I know has expressed a desire for true human connection with their friends and family and the outside world. But we’ve become so entangled in the performance that we drift further and further away from connecting to other humans.

And I’m so exhausted by this circus.

I know the depths of despair and the monsters that people hide, that manifest with different names- divorce, addiction, grief, contempt, broken relationships, self doubt, self-mutilation, shame, guilt..

But we’ve created a situation where people must fight their monsters alone. They will not speak their tormentor’s name in fear of rejection, as it seems no one else is fighting monsters- what does it say about them if they are the only ones fighting?

I have seen countless friends and acquaintances, with what I imagine are glimmers of hopes in the eyes, share something with the world that makes them vulnerable. It could be their own emotions, their mental illness, their art, their passions, their poetry.

They are met with radio silence, because these things are not always aesthetically pleasing, and because of this, no one is buying.

And then those people carefully delete their feelings and expressions of their true selves from the world, ashamed that they ever made themselves vulnerable only to not be accepted by the people around them. They promise themselves they will not try again.

Herein we discover the issue. That in a world so literally connected, we feel more alone than ever, and because of this, we paint our lives rose coloured in hopes that people will like it, and we will not feel so alone.

We are spiraling violently into the abyss of being so desperate to have a real connection with another human that we lie about our lives in fear of rejection.

How much healthier would it be to share whatever you wanted- a picture, a story, a poem, a work of art, a spilling of your soul- without a panel of judges ready to rate it? What if likes and comments were not a thing, and rather, to tell someone you liked something they shared, you actually had to talk to them?

And this is where the battle lies for me. I’ve spent my life with a sore back, from allowing people to walk over me in hopes that they might accept me…validate me. My mouth has been burned by the hot words I held onto too long. My muscles are tired from containing my strangeness in fear of being made fun of. My heart aches for my generation, who are so critical of what they share with the world, and for younger generations, who feel an unbearable pressure and loneliness from trying to measure up to our impossibly perfect lives we live on the Internet. My mind is exhausted from constantly questioning:

What. If. They. Don’t. Like. Me?

My final message is simply this:

If you share something that makes you vulnerable, that is made from the gentle pieces of your soul, it is valid and beautiful and creative and courageous- regardless of whether anyone validates it.

And if you notice someone who is brave and shows an honest picture of their lives in someway that you relate to-talk to them. This is a step towards true human connection, and each time we do this, we chip away the facades we feel we must wear.

Perhaps the most courageous act is being unapologetically ourselves, and in doing that, giving others the freedom to do the same.

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