One of the most noticeable aspects of modern day life is the obsession that people have with themselves. Now I am sure that this has always been the case, it is just that it is so much more noticeable now.
Social Media is filled with “tweets” and “selfies” and people update their status more and more frequently. But of course this is that strange parallel world of cyber existence that sits alongside our day to day “real” world, or is it?
In fact some people seem to think that their on-line status is at least as important, if not more so, than their physical presence. If there aren’t pictures to show every one of their friends and followers just how exciting their lives are, then clearly very little is happening.
The joke that “I tried to act like Facebook in real life by “liking” everyone I met, and ended up with three followers; a stalker, a policeman and a psychiatrist!” is perhaps a little too close to the truth.
In our everyday world we take much more cautious steps and test people and things before we give them access to our thoughts feelings and fears. Yet on-line those are readily available to anyone who asks to “friend” us. All the usual checks and balances seem to be thrown out of the window. All in the pursuit of yet more and more friends of the cyber variety
It isn’t surprising really given the way that we have models of instant success thrust down our throats by the various pop and reality shows we find everywhere. People seek fame for itself rather than as an adjunct to a talent or skill or craft that has been worked on.
If you combine this with the almost instant celebrity of reality show contestants then it is clear that fame is something that can be achieved with nothing more than a little luck and being in the right place at the right time. It no longer seems to be a question of work and application, but rather about being properly networked and connected.
So, it can be little surprise that young (and not so young) wannabes spend an inordinate amount of time online, massaging their identities and letting the world know just how their lives are.
When Virtual overtakes Actual
The danger is that with so much effort going into living “on-line” that people forget to cultivate their everyday physical world. They end up messaging and texting instead of calling, or even meeting their friends. And it is that loss of physical contact and context that causes people to lose themselves in the giddy on line world.
Instead of being surrounded with people who have flaws and limitations; on-line friends seem to be able to skip the awkward bits of life and simply grasp all the juicy and exciting parts. Naturally this makes for a much more enjoyable lifestyle, so no wonder people want to have their own share of it.
Nobody on-line asks if you have tidied your room, done the laundry or balanced your finances recently. Nobody bothers about planning for the future, well at least not anything next year or the year after anyway!
Instead the short term becomes much more inviting. After all, people keep telling us to “stay in the present” so to heck with what lies ahead when the bills become due!
Sadly, we are in part responsible for that. We have strived to give our children what they wanted, when they wanted it. And in so doing we have played into their twin dreams or nightmares of instant gratification and absolute entitlement. In overcompensating by being the ultimate provider we have created generations who expect as a right almost anything they see, and they want it NOW!
Of course I am exaggerating and oversimplifying the situation, but only for clarity. There are plenty of young people who have a great work ethic and awareness of the link between effort and reward. But there are far too many who feel disgruntled and disaffected because they can’t have everything they want immediately. Perhaps that is why the virtual world is so appealing.
For, in that world at least, they are able to construct an existence that does gratify them instantly. They can forget the nuisances of every day life and enjoy the carefree, untroubled existence of Facebook likes and followers. They can tweet their thoughts on any and every topic that catches their fleeting attention and then move on.
In effect they are able to create a much more malleable reality than the one that requires them to get up early and schlep off to some workplace. Now why on earth would anyone want to have to deal with nasty awkward people instead of those lovely creatures who are clearly hanging on every tweet or post that you have ready for them?
No doubt there will be much more on this topic to come.