Can we disconnect to reconnect?

I work in VR. It’s great, I love it.

What’s amazing about VR is that there are clear lines between what’s virtual reality and what’s actual reality (a bit of a giveaway is removing a VR headset from your head).

Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

Pop culture has often painted VR as this blurred line between what’s real and what’s not (I’m looking at you “Ready Player One”), however the reality couldn’t be further from this narrative. VR is used for what it’s needed for, then you step out of cyberspace and get back to the real world!

Here’s the thing; I wish all tech was like this.

I remember logging onto Facebook back in ’06, looking at who poked me, poking them back and logging back out.

…Okay, I did more than that of course, but you get what I mean; I used Facebook to communicate with people and see what everyone was up to whilst I wasn’t with them.

You already see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Somewhere along the way, social media became anti-soci- I’m joking, I know we’ve all seen that video and all its cringeworthy glory, but it had a point. Somewhere along the way, social media skyrocketed to the top of ways that people wanted to experience life. Here’s the thing about life; it is imperfect, full of ups and downs and often is not glamorous at all.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

On instagram, you can post yourself living your best life in the form of snapshots of “omg I can’t believe that just happened” being framed as a constant way of life. No one needs to see that time you were sat at the back of the 226 bus listening to Marvin’s Room, or that time you repeated a joke in the middle of a crowd because you thought it went unnoticed, only for someone to yell “yeah we heard you the first time buddy it just wasn’t funny”.

But these are all parts of real life and they’re just as important as the good bits. This want and need for perfection leads us to favour our digital selves over our actual selves, because online we’re (usually) refined, funny, constantly on form and provide an ever-existing presence of how we would like to be remembered whenever somebody is thinking about us. Think about it, if someone from your school/university days was to think of you with no social media to use as a reference to check-in, they’d probably remember things about you that you’d rather were lost to the endless river of time as they’d be going purely off of memories and experiences. Now, however, they can simply look you up on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook and bam: there you are, all glow’d up and not a flaw in sight.

Because of this, the importance of interaction has been placed more heavily on our online selves and interactions rather than the real, physical connections. It’s no surprise that anxiety, depression and suicides in millennials is higher than any other generation, with more millennials dying “deaths of despair” — deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide” As reported by Business insider.

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

That took a slightly dark turn, my bad if it was a bit abrupt. We need to pause, even if just for a moment, because we need to really take a step back from these apps to look at how they have profoundly impacted the way we live. Let’s talk life expectations for a moment: there are growing pressures on young people to have achieved so much at their young age and a lot of this comes from content we consume. If you’re scrolling on down your feed each day and you’re seeing people posted up on private jets, yachts, in supercars or in extravagant places, the effect of comparison kicks in whether you’d like it to or not.

Back in the day, if you were reading a magazine about luxury cars and who owns them, then randomly saw your friend featured in the mag you would automatically (and correctly) assimilate this person with that lifestyle; because to get into that article they must have passed a certain bar to do so.

Now, let’s bring it back to your social feed. You’re scrolling, you see Celeb X posing by a PJ, then you see your friends on the post just after that. Now, granted, they may not be doing anything nearly as extravagant, but your brain doesn’t know that. Everything is in one place, and everything suddenly seems like it’s out of your reach.

Or relationships. I recently saw the term “Instagram official” a few weeks ago after a couple of ‘influencers’ posted a photo together (which apparently sealed the deal, idk). I genuinely wondered whether people based their very real and tangible, intimate relationships (with someone who I assume they wish to be their other half for the foreseeable future), on a tech company based in SiliCOn VaLleY???

ok

I’m waffling a tad.

Our generation feels connected with everyone, but feelings of loneliness and emptiness dominate our mental space. What separates just anybody that you follow on instagram with somebody that you are genuinely friends with? Memories, experiences and socially interacting with that person.

Social media is creating an illusion of connectivity between people, which is leading people to connect with more people but not reap the full benefits of having close relationships with these people. These connections are then often confused with ones that we are naturally used to, leaving us with a feeling of emptiness that replaces what should be filled with a plethora of emotions.

I am certainly nowhere near the first person to have this take, however I thought I’d throw my 2 pence in and say this to summarise:

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that social media is, has always been and was always intended to be a stopgap used to fill the time between seeing people. Let’s try and get back to a place where we use social media to get more out of people, not use people to get more out of social media.