Culture Editor Ally Azyan on finding a balance between our virtual and real lives.
Nowadays, many of us are pressured to be better than everyone else: to be richer, more popular, ‘cooler’, especially in the presence of social media. We sell an image of ourselves that represents only one percent of us. The other 99 percent is stuck at home, subjecting itself to mindless scrolling and constant envy of others who have it better than us. We always want to be original and stand out from the crowd, in constant need of external validation through the number of ‘likes’ and comments that pump our ego.
Social media is no longer about sharing the little pleasures of our mundane lives. Instead, it’s all about trying to mould us into this ideal type of person that society likes to see, and if we lose this shape, we are shunned. This is especially the case for women, who follow an unsaid rule of only showing our ‘presentable’ sides that satisfy the male gaze. Sponsorship after sponsorship, influencer after influencer…at this point, the internet feels like one big ball of advertisements, and we can’t differentiate between what’s real and not real.
It has also become the hotbed of toxicities: cancel culture, fake news, cyberbullying, death threats; these are things that no one can run away from because it’s with us every second and penetrates our dreams. The only way out is to turn our heads towards activities that our parents enjoyed in their teenage years, which aren’t necessarily bad. Indeed, if we did stay away from Twitter or Instagram, we would feel outside of the loop because naturally as humans, we hate the unknown. Additionally, some jobs depend on the use of social media, such as journalism or marketing, which would make turning off virtually impossible.
Nonetheless, we should begin to take small steps and bring ourselves back into reality; disengage from internet wars and appreciate our surroundings, as cliché as that sounds. I’ve learnt to appreciate the small moments of happiness and contentment that I feel when doing the things that I like in solitude. As an introvert, I find that being online constantly is as overwhelming as being in a noisy canteen at school; it drains me, and more so than when I actually see people in person. Instead, I’ve been finding solace in belting out my favourite songs in my empty apartment, re-watching corny American sitcoms and dramas, or immersing myself in edgy philosophical literature. Almost every day, I call my mum and enjoy her virtual company that brings me comfort and a sense of nostalgia. And once a fortnight, I reward myself with a late-night snack of instant noodles, savouring every sip of the spicy curry soup.
This is not to say that I’ve fully disconnected from social media because, after all, I am only human. I give into the temptations of scrolling through TikTok for two hours straight, putting snippets of my life on my stories or worrying myself by taking in the reality of the events occurring outside my safe bubble. It is difficult, and you tend to feel guilty for having the privilege of being able to turn these things off with just a click of a button. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this, but the best practice, I believe, would be to stay aware of these issues, find the time to educate ourselves with the multitude of resources, and of course, help wherever we can.
Social media is a double-edged sword: we are able to share our happy moments with the ones we love and learn so much of the world through the screen of your phone. At the same time, we are vulnerable to illusions or abuse that deteriorate our mental health, where we find ourselves in a state of helplessness as we are pulled into a world that may as well be Hell. Sometimes, we just need a firm tug out of this virtual underworld and come back to our senses with the little things we love. The smell of coffee? The light summer breeze?