By Sakhi Nair
Edited by Liz Maria Kurkiakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Went to watch a movie today, MUST tweet. In good mood, MUST post a selfie on Instagram. Went to a party, MUST share the pictures on Facebook. Have a bucket list, MUST put it on Tumblr. With social networking sites being some of the most frequented websites, everyone has a 1000 friends, albeit virtual, a YouTube channel, a blog and everything that gives them a heightened sense of self. Welcome to the mad world of social networking, we hope your stay here satiates your pathological need for attention.
In a world consumed by social media, you haven’t arrived until that picture of yours has got more than a 100 likes, or if you haven’t been retweeted. If you attend a concert, you need numerous selfies as proof. What’s the difference between Kim Kardashian and an average social networker? Both demand attention, shamelessly promote themselves and make their lives seem more interesting than they actually are, the only difference being that while Kardashian was successful in her quest for fame, the average social networker was well, not so much. The constant itching urge to update the world with every minute of our lives, and not really caring about our online friends unless they say something about us, clearly spells narcissism.
The Internet is man’s real best friend, satisfying his ever-growing need for an ego boost. A world with no boundaries for bragging, where the demarcation line between being social and being vain is blurred, where you are guaranteed your two seconds in the limelight with every post. Seems like utopia? It definitely does when we salivate at the prospect of being “known”. Everybody wants to be a celebrity, indulging in grandiose exhibitionism. Social media is like a drug, it gives you an inflated sense of self, an escape from reality, gives a distorted version of reality and is very, very addictive. The more you take it, the more is your tolerance towards it, and more difficult it is to withdraw.
Nothing is private. Everyone has two personalities, one real, and the other virtual. While the very purpose of social networking was to get to know people better, it seems like people have become more unknowable than ever. Their two personalities are poles apart. It was meant to connect people, build more relationships. But it’s doing exactly the opposite. Many psychologists have compared this phenomenon to Sigmund Freud’s analogy of the ‘Hedgehog’s Dilemma’. Basically it refers to a situation where a group of hedgehogs become close to one another to remain warm during winter, but end up hurting each other with their spines, and separate until the next winter. Similarly, we need to spend a considerable amount of time on social networking to seek comfort, but soon we realize that spending too much time with our spiny virtual friends leaves little time for other things and leads to ignorance of our responsibilities. So we separate, only to be lured into the trap of social media again, and hence the cycle goes on.
While social media is fuelling narcissism, it also incites feelings of low self-esteem in those who can’t keep up with this mad race where everyone is embarking on a quest to fame. We are constantly under pressure to be perfect, to be known, and to have ‘interesting’ lives. While the Internet is a boon for some introverted people, for others it’s a nightmare. It only reminds them that others have better lives than them, that they’re having more fun, that they’re more perfect. This lowers their already fragile self-esteem and gives them a negative image of themselves. What they don’t realize is, that what they see is highly unrealistic and modified. People project themselves to be desirable, as what they want to be, rather than what they actually are.
While social media has had its fair share of advantages, it would be wrong to say that it has done more than good. Narcissism was considered to be abnormal, but now, it is nothing but common. The only solution to recover from our social media addiction is to draw a clear boundary between virtual life and real life, and make sure we don’t experience any relapse. Social media can throw up strange conundrums in your mind while you try to decipher what’s real and what’s not. If you want to get away from the perplexity, keep it real.
Sakhi is a 12th grade student planning to pursue Mass Communication. She is a keen observer of everything that her eyes can see and never leaves herself out of a stimulating conversation. She considers the freedom of expression to be the fourth necessity of life and believes the world could be a better place if we could just listen. Her interests include photography, music and satire. You can wade through her musings at http://www.neuroticpeanuts.blogspot.com.