We live in 2018, a time in which the whole world is interconnected through complicated systems of social media. Companies like Facebook give us the opportunity to be constantly connected to our loved ones, no matter where in the world we are, seemingly offering us a safety blanket of loved ones. In reality, this endless network of connections works to make us feel more isolated and alone than we could ever imagine. The infinite nature of it has a detrimental effect on coping with feelings of loneliness, enforcing rather than deterring them. And unfortunately, rather than allowing us to feel less lonely, social media tends to further isolate us and make us feel more alone than ever.
Leaving a place of comfort and familiarity is difficult. Although the prospects of embracing a new adventure and having access to completely new experiences are often very exciting, there is a certain sadness that comes with the knowledge that you will soon be surrounded by a place you do not know as well. In our day and age, though, it seems like everyone that leaves not only loves every second of it, but that they immediately molded to the new ways they encountered. Snapshots of their daily life on Instagram and Facebook litter your feed, and you may admire how easily they bent themselves into their new environment, thoughts of home and family long gone. Their highlight reels stain your thoughts as you go through the day, and when you yourself are also supposed to be adapting to somewhere completely new, it forces you to take a look inside yourself. It forces you to question why you’re unable to blend in, enjoy your time away, be whole on your own.
Personally, I have gone through this when I left for study abroad. I reached out to other friends who were studying abroad, even the ones that had too many highlight reels to count, and they agreed — they were lonely, and the social media that was supposed to make them feel more connected to a familiar place made them even more lonely. It appears to be a common problem.
Applications to keep yourself rooted to the place you’ve come from are commonplace. There’s Whatsapp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter- you get it. They have not only permeated our day to day life, but they’ve become the go-to when boredom sets in. A common pastime is simply laying around and scrolling through whatever social media your fingers lead you to, having shallow engagements with friends, family and sometimes strangers that may be nowhere in your vicinity. And when you’re already feeling lonely, whether it’s because you miss home, your family, friends, and all you see are happy faces, it only serves to isolate you. Not only do you not have those you love near you to comfort you, but you also have no one to relate to in those superficial posts because everyone just focuses on their almost-perfect moments. On social media, everyone highlights the seemingly perfect parts of their life and ignores the difficult portions.
Even then, you still have direct messages and video calls. Perhaps. But messages often come off dry, succinct and not nearly as emotional as you desire. After all, how can you even be properly sarcastic with block letters? The loneliness you may be feeling seems to get exalted by the detachment and simplicity messages often carry with them. And video calls, though a major improvement, are never enough. Whether if it’s because of the lag time between the words in the speakers and the movement of the mouth in the video, or the lack of physical presence of the other person, it always leaves you feeling a little emptier and lonelier than you may care to admit.
Social media is, no doubt, a very important and sometimes positive invention that is unlikely to ever truly die out. While it may change forms, its continued existence seems hard to argue against. And though it is meant to protect us from isolation, it often highlights our loneliness in our minds, when the only emotion we find on our screens is one of exaltation and happiness. It creates an imagined community online, lacking any physical presence in our daily lives, and due to its nature of showcasing perfect moments, takes a toll on our everyday lives and mistakes. It makes people judge themselves more harshly than they would otherwise, as they see their own shortcomings as unique, as they compare themselves to the lives their friends and families have constructed on the web. And unfortunately, oftentimes, we must leave our loved ones and the sense of what is familiar behind in order to understand that detachment, that negative space between what people project themselves to be and what they really are. Because after all, we’re all just humans, and humanity comes with mistakes and shortcomings, even when we may not broadcast it to the world.