"It's OK to log off, you know?"
We've all heard this (or some variation of this) before; or at least... we've thought it to ourselves. If you haven't, then you might be my target audience for this post. Although there is much ongoing debate on the subject - generally speaking, the internet is not so much a human right as it is a privilege. And by that logic, even though freedom of speech is a basic human right (under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights), it doesn't necessarily mean that we should all use the internet as a modern day tool for binging and purging.
What do I mean by "binging and purging"? Well, the former is fairly simple. By "binging", I'm referring to our overindulgence in online content, as a society. Whether it's Netflix, online gambling, porn, Pinterest, gossip sites, etc. - many of us have something that we frequently binge on via the internet. Now, as for "purging" (which is the focus of this post), I'm referring to our general tendency as a society to overshare, over-explain, over-argue, and over-police everything on the internet. There's really not much worse than a sense of entitlement mixed with online verbal diarrhea of the projectile variety. If you've ever heard of the terms "trolling" or "internet troll", then you sort of know what I mean:
Apart from "standard trolls" who's prime goal is to "provoke", are those of us who's intentions aren't always to 'poke the bear'. The other internet offenders are those of us who's gut instinct is to display continuous or daily "proof of life" online. Those of us who can't keep a good or bad thought to ourselves, or at least reserve them for our immediate circle of friends/family. For many of us, once we've captured a moment or received exciting or upsetting news... the automatic gut reaction is: "POST THAT SHIT!!!". The only filters we tend to acknowledge anymore are the virtual ones that come free with our social media accounts. I don't know if it's necessarily fair to say that it's a "gut" reaction, so much as it is a subconscious need to feed our "egos" . All I know is that if the internet were a real life person, I imagine that they'd much rather play Russian roulette in a dark room, than continue to be accosted with the daily onslaught of thoughts and photo updates that we throw its way:
In the beginning of my social media career (if one can call it a career if I don't get paid for it), I admit I was someone who would overshare in the following ways:
- posting passive aggressive status updates re. my relationship drama
- posting numerous photos of my niece & nephew
- live tweeting my day on Facebook (before Twitter was even a thing!); i.e. "Off to the gym now!", "Stuck in traffic", "Hmm, what to eat for dinner?"
Granted, an application like Twitter is basically built for the average over-sharer. However, the more I thought about it and the more I matured, I started to question why I felt the need to advertise everything I was doing or going through. I realized I was just trying to feed some cracked part of my ego. Trying to remain 'relevant' to the internet. Trying to convince myself that my day-to-day routines and emotions... meant something... to someone. Sad, but real. And so, I imagine that I'm not the only one who's gone through or is going through this virtual identity crisis. You know, the modern day equivalent of that age old 'tree falling in the forest' dilemma. Ergo: if you don't post about it, does it even matter? Does it even count as real? Do I even count as real?"
As inflammatory as it may be to say this- I sort of imagine that some people who post constant photos of their families/children online are seeking the internet's approval of them as parents, on some level. There's some need for the internet to tell them their kids are darling and incredibly cute, and that they (as parents) are doing a stellar job, because "look at my little mini-human being all sorts of adorable". Meanwhile in real life, these toddlers might actually be acting like little shits, throwing tantrums and driving their parents to drink daily. And it's not to say that, overall, these kids aren't completely adorable and awesome little humans, because for the most part... they are. I'm just starting to question why some people care so much that the 'internet' thinks highly of their offspring (and I guess to that point.. of them as well). I wonder why a child's uneventful, non-milestone, mundane actions need to be consistently canonized on social media for the world to see. I wonder if the parents ever ponder the consequences of having all of these photos floating around online for eternity. I wonder about the kind of message some kids could be receiving when they are constantly having to play up for the camera or phone in their face - constantly aware (on some level) that whatever they do is being visually documented for public validation. Milestones and firsts (i.e. birthdays, first steps, holidays, etc.)? I get it. What I don't get is why every walk in the park, or every spilled bowl of cereal needs to make its rounds online.
(Sidenote: As I write this, I am fully aware that somewhere out there, some of my friends online are fixing their fingers to explain why "I just wouldn't get it" and "maybe once you become a parent, you'll understand", and "well, just unfriend or unfollow me then if you don't like seeing my child!"
But hey... it's just my personal observation, folks... Free speech and all that, remember? Lol.)
Truth be told, I also feel somewhat the same about people who constantly share, re-tweet or express immediate outrage when any sort of tragedy happens. The ones who always want to be the "news breakers" and show their immediate support for someone or some cause, often times... without knowing the bulk of a story. The band-wagoners. I've been one myself on many occasions; so my judgment is not completely unfounded.
I mean, sure... it's entirely possible that these sorts of people are really just that compassionate and sympathetic to EVERY. SINGLE. TRAGEDY. But for the most part, the realist (or the inner Grumpy Bear) in me thinks that many of these online declarations are often not so much a call to action for 'social justice' as they are an attempt at perceived 'consciousness'. I know, I know... I kind of feel awful saying it, but the bottom line is that a lot of us 'fake care' and pretend to know things that we really don't. Perhaps in our heart of hearts, we do care on some level, but in order to not be perceived as heartless monsters... we have to "weigh in" immediately and publicly on the latest news. No matter how ill-informed we might be. We jump into Twitter fights with people we'll never meet, comment on things we ultimately don't understand or care all that much about... All in an effort to remain relevant to the internet.
What I think we need to accept is that the internet doesn't give two shits about us. Although it will forever hold some of our very real moments in its endless data-bank, the internet is not real life. Despite having access to most of our personal information, it doesn't know us. And despite the "likes" and "follows" we accumulate over time, the internet doesn't love us. So why do we feel such a need to keep it happy and full of our best, worst and indifferent moments? Why are some of us so pressed to create these linear online personas, when our real lives are about as messy (and misunderstood) as a Jackson Pollock painting?
Frankly, if the internet were a real person, they'd be sick of our shit. They'd tell us to get over ourselves and to get some friends. The internet would look at all of our selfies and timelines and be like: "Aaaaand, I should care because?"
My personal piece of advice when it comes to the "urge to purge" on the internet? If nothing else - remember this:
You have the RIGHT to remain SILENT. Anything you post can and will be held against you... on Twitter.