Saturday, July 11, 2015

Breaking Free From The Internet Bubble

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm SO glad there was no internet, social media or cell phones when I was in college! Of course, even without these, there was still drama, but at least it was all face to face. There were still people playing head games with each other, there was all the "who was hung up on who," "who loved each other, then hated each other, then loved each other again," but at least it was all in person.

When it comes to social media, most people can take it or leave it. But then there are the extremes: the person who hates the idea and refuses to join anything, and on the other end of the spectrum, there is the person whose entire life revolves around it. This type of person is usually one who thinks that when they meet and chat with strangers on social media, they are being liked for who they really are and that they are not being mistakenly judged based on how they act or look, as they perceive themselves to be when they're in the outside world. Sadly, this is not the case. When strangers chat with each other online, each person is putting his or her very best self forward - similar to co-workers at the office. On public social media sites, you are putting your best, most charming, self out there all the time, but this is not really you, and you are not being liked for being you. Particularly when there are no fights or arguments and no breaking up, then coming back together again. The person on social media is never seeing your ugly side and accepting it and wanting to stay friends despite it. Instead, it is all nice-nice all the time, and that's not a realistic relationship either inside or outside.

Sometimes, these connections can be all-consuming. I once overheard a conversation between two women. One was telling the other that she gets extremely jealous every time she sees the guy she's been chatting with for over a year tweet to other girls on Twitter. "But he's my internet boyfriend!" she exclaimed. "I don't want him to replace me with someone else!" The other woman tried to knock some sense into her: "You're getting angry and crazy and obsessive over one site! There are tons of social media sites. There are chat rooms and even gaming sites where two people who have a common interest in the same game can find themselves in constant contact. How do you know he doesn't have an internet girlfriend on every one of these sites?" "You're right," her friend agreed. "I guess I blocked all that out. I need to feel some sense of control over this situation I have with him, you know? I don't want to lose him from my life." The other woman just shook her head.

For some people, social media can be a time-sucker and an emotion-sucker. It pulls them out of the real world where there are things like the smell of grass and the feel of warm sunshine on your face. You may still be experiencing these things, but when you're constantly looking at your phone, your mind is elsewhere. You're closing out all your other senses. In the case of the woman with the internet boyfriend, it seemed to be a real brain-sucker too. A friend of mine recently got very upset when a friend she'd been chatting with online for a year and a half who she's never met in person suddenly told her that she didn't want to chat with her anymore. "I don't understand," my friend told me. "A few months ago, she told me she was fascinated by how much our minds were alike, and then last night, she told me she didn't want to chat with me anymore because we just don't click." My friend was really devastated by this. I told her that the problem with the internet is there is no tone of voice or facial expression to back up your words. Was her friend lying to her the first time or the second time? One thing I know is that when you see someone's face, you do know what they're thinking because their eyes will tell you all you need to know.

I hope both the woman with the internet boyfriend and my friend can finally escape the pain they've endured over this brain and emotion-sucking bubble they've been trapped in. I'll never know about the woman, but for all of us, it's best to limit the amount of time we spend on the internet. I'll see you one day in the outside world.

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