The Unbearable ‘Like’-ness of Being
For every move I make or any task I perform, there’s an urgent need in me to follow it up with a quick glance at my phone screen. As I mindlessly scroll through various social media platforms, I may not be paying attention to any of the information in it but I am unconsciously consuming all of it. That feeling of haste stays with me, all while I hurry from one Instagram post to another, one Facebook status to the next.
As I scroll through my many feeds, I feel this all-encompassing sense of discomfort and uneasiness. I believe this is what insecurity and self doubt feels like. The more I’m bombarded with algorithmically laid out content featuring gorgeous models in designer clothes and influencers travelling the world, the worse I feel about myself and my surroundings.
Mind you, I’m aware of the dystopian standards that social media sets but that awareness in no way helps me to calm my nerves and soothe my insecurities, nor stop me from questioning my own capabilities and dream of a better life. I ask myself why everyone is so hellbent on nurturing a digital alter-ego that has little or no association with our real personalities.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” If Wilde lived to see this day, he’d know that his words are now more relevant than ever. Aren’t we all constantly stealing, imitating and contradicting ourselves to create an identity far away from our own? We’ve already artificially augmented reality, how much longer till we augment consciousness too?
Millennials today live in an emotional vacuum where feelings are fleeting but ‘likes’ are not. Life is no longer lived if every move is not documented on social media and validated by onlookers. What started as a platform to stay connected with friends and family has now become a necessary tool of being. Privacy is no longer a virtue, plagiarism not a crime (if done right).
In this overflowing arena of personal information; sharing our locations, tagging our lovers, uploading selfies, sharing memes; all happen as quickly and effortlessly as breathing to us. Manya, my housekeeper, 22, recently asked for my help to set up a Facebook account for her because she was embarrassed to be the only one amongst her friends to not have one. She now regularly seeks my superior social media skills to upload pictures since she cannot read.
It is not just the oversharing of everyday life on social media that is alarming, it is the unconscious standardisation of character that we’re slowly inching towards that we should be worrying about. There was a time when I loved what I loved and hated what I did. Today, I’m unsure if what I genuinely like isn’t what my peers do too and that makes me question and sometimes alter my choices. Homogeneity is murdering authenticity. Algorithm and viral content is defining our tastes in almost everything from food to fashion and music to people. Content is no longer personal.
Social media might help me receive recognition for my work but it is also making it ever so vulnerable to become obsolete. So everyday I struggle to retain my authenticity and voice while still keeping up my digital presence because my occupation requires me to. I allow myself to not just hit like but genuinely like things around me that may not essentially be “cool”. For every time I stray away from my individuality, I remind myself of my humble roots and small-town upbringing.
We’re a generation of imposters, living multiple lives with hundreds of followers but no real friends, endless Instagram stories but no memories to cherish, unmeasurable exposure to information but no retention, over awareness but no tolerance. We reduce down feelings, situations and people to ‘memes’, making a mockery out of realities we refuse to face outside our smartphone screens. Our emotions are fleeting, our minds constantly wandering, our hearts anxious; and yet as I type this, my eyes wander away from my laptop screen and on to my phone.