Hi. Do you do that thing where you fall asleep with your phone in your hand? Do you drive with your phone on your lap, or do you sometimes feel an overwhelming urge to stop on the side of road to share an interesting moment that just happened? Do you prefer staying home and cuddling with the internet than being with actual humans? If so, then you might be suffering from 21st Century Life. Here at UNPLUG, we have the help you need with our new line of GTFOH products…
It’s hard to imagine now but, there was a time when the internet didn’t exist. I straight put it to you that we were different people back then. We behaved differently. Life had no filters and you couldn’t crop out stuff you didn’t want in your life. As it stands, it honestly feels like the internet is built into our DNA.
The internet and, by extension, social media, revolves around the idea of sharing. But, to share, one must have, no? In order to have, one must…? Get! This means in order to share rivetting tidbits about your life, you must actually have such a life or, go get one. A few months ago I took a break from writing (for online). I also deleted Facebook from my phone. Why? I got tired of my brain functioning as a video recorder. We are constantly recording life for the sole purpose of sharing moments in which we were present but we never experienced. When you’ve shared everything in the cookie jar, you are left with crumbs. So we are outchea chucking these crumbs like Hansel and Gretel hoping they will lead us back to a place where we feel like we belong and the people like us.
Do we really have that much to say? Trying to condense your thoughts into 140 character bursts or rants in navy blue and light grey hues can get a bit much sometimes. Trying to force the sincerity into a colon-capital-D smiley face. Or, capture the emotional depth of an emoji or boisterous humour of an ‘lol’ – this can be a mission.
Who were we, me and you, before the internet? Did you want me to know what you had for breakfast? Did you want me to know what you look like in the toilet? Did you want me to know every personal thing about your life, even though we’ve never met? Does “online” mean the same as “I’m here for you?” Are you really *crying*? I’m actually not laughing out loud, by the way.
Our digital selves can really fool us into believing that our worlds are actually bigger than they really are, and vice versa. Your digital self has a better life than you do. Our digital selves are better friends than we are. This is why we are so drawn to wanting to share so much. We want to spend as much time as our digi-selves as possible. We can curate our lives, digitally. Select the perfect words, capture our good sides. The question that defeated me was, “who cares?” I couldn’t answer.
But what is the answer? When you can get home on Friday and never see or talk to another physical human being until Monday all the while never spending a second in silence or solitude, is the answer even necessary? Everybody wants to be someone to somebody, right? So why not be everything to everyone? This is the freedom of the internet, isn’t it? One of Thandiswa Mazwai’s songs says something like, “we’ve fallen in love with instruments of our liberation”, I paraphrase. The internet, and the technology around it, is vastly powerful. But we seem to love what it can do rather than love what we do with it. We love that we can connect with people. But the connections are a far cry from actually connecting with another person’s presence. It’s like this movie, “Her”. A man falls in love with his operating system. In life, as in the flick, we keep falling in love with people we’ve never met and places we’ve never been.
So what must happen? UNPLUG. Log off. Sign out. The photoshopped picture of a beautiful sunset with deep words on it pales in comparison to what God’s been busy with outside. Hear the “lol”, it’s funnier. See the smile, it’s more beautiful, especially when you are share it.