kurt vonnegut asks : “what should young people do with their lives today?”
his answer : “many things. obviously. but the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured”.
and so… as our social fabric weakens, making loneliness the most common ailment of the western world, we have turned to social media as a cure. time is money, and being the social animals we are with little or no time, and staying at home only long enough to catch some zzs then go back to our rat race, we’ve taken to social media like duck to water.
some of us have become addicted to social networking because it allows us to manage what little time we have left over more effectively; we’re collecting friends like stamps, and can’t distinguish between quantity and quality anymore; we exchange photos, chat constantly, and in the process sacrifice conversation for connection. we’ve got many friends and followers in the process.
and conversation which is spontaneous, exciting and in real-time has become texting, posting, emailing. this has allowed us to be our alter ego, a self that we’d like to be. with instagram, we can now post endless selfies. we can look into people’s lives to see what people are doing, eating, wearing, watching etc.
self promotion has become our full-time out-of-office or school job, and big time, killing our interpersonal skills. technology has allowed us to expect more of us, and less of each other.
and those who are afraid of intimacy become most vulnerable to this personality robber. and the result of this is the emergence of a new self. a self that is faking experiences, photoshopping images to look better, planning what to say without realizing the risk of losing the real self, like cam models who perform and don so many selves and acts that they no longer know who they are.
and still, the opposite is true: we are alone. still. we are lonely. we can’t face ourselves in the wee hours of the night – as pascal said some centuries ago- the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quiet in his room [pascal, pensees 1670].
or, we have become a nation of needy people. as balzac – another french critique of his society – said: solitude is fine, but you [still] need someone to tell that solitude is fine.