I Think That the Internet Makes Us Unhappy, Part One

Results from a study that were published last year indicate how more time spent on Facebook is correlated with decreased levels of happiness. The hypothesis is that Facebook- an avenue that allows users to share photos and status updates on their lives- leads people to compare their lives to others’. The problem is that, oftentimes, people only post about the positive aspects of their lives in an effort to come across as “fun” or “interesting” or to avoid revealing too personal of information to friends-of-friends. For example, one is probably more likely to post a status about receiving an A on an exam than failing it. People who post “emo” statuses or photos with captions such as “oh my gosh, I’m so ugly” tend to be, and I would probably agree, people fishing for compliments or attention. Yet, isn’t the person posting photos of a fun night out with friends also looking for attention in some way- a sense of validation, like, look world, I have friends?

I’m not immune to this either; I usually forget to take pictures of my life, but when I do, I post them on Facebook. Once I post them, do I walk away from my computer and let the photos be free? No, I relentlessly check to see if people are liking or commenting on them. It’s addictive, and I feel disappointed if a photo goes un-liked or un-commented on.

Facebook also creates a false sense of connection to other people. Passively (or even actively…) looking at someone else’s Facebook page does not compare to the sensation of being with him or her in the flesh and blood. Every so often I am reminded of what I think the meaning of life is, and it is something that cannot be replicated online. Want to know what it is? Crying in front of your friends.

However, I not only rely on Facebook to give me more than zero readers for this blog- I also use it to communicate with friends who live in other countries or to reconnect with friends from my past with whom I had lost contact. It’s really expensive to talk on the phone with people who live in other countries (well, I guess I could Skype with them… but that requires, like, effort… or I guess I could email them… well, who uses email for personal reasons anymore?). I also recently connected with two girls whom had I hadn’t spoken to in years but, through seeing their Facebook updates, realized that we turned out to have very similar interests to each other. In those regards, I think that the Internet is really cool.

I also fear deleting my Facebook in case I won’t get invited to cool events. Would people forget to invite me to things because I’m not just another box to be clicked? Am I worth the extra effort of being sent a text message instead?

I don’t have a smart phone- not because I think I’m so high and mighty, but I simply don’t want to pay for it and don’t feel a huge need for one. Consequently, I sometimes feel like there’s this whole club of smart phone users with their own language and lifestyle of which I am unaware or not a part. For example, the other day, I was taking a photo with some people, and someone shouted out, “IG worthy!” It took me quite awhile to figure out what IG was. It had me wondering how often per day people must think about or use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other social media apps exist. If I only go on the Internet at home, and Facebook is the only form of social media that I use, yet I still feel consumed by it… how must other people feel?

The Era of the Over-Sharer

I have several Internet pet peeves, one of which is when people have political debates via comments on a Facebook status, and the other being the over-sharers. There are some people whom I have literally met once yet feel like I know deeply and personally, thanks to their regular Facebook updates; I know where they go to school, whether or not they dropped out of school, in what city they live, where they work, whether or not they like their job, what they ate for breakfast, if they are single or in a relationship, how their relationship is going, how long they have been together, and tragic life events such as if they have had a loved one pass away. As for the political debates, I used to partake in them just because I would become so angry at seeing a status or comment with an “inferior” opinion; I would always feel the need to “correct” the person with whom I disagreed. However, I soon came to the conclusion that if one is passionate enough about a subject to put forth so much energy into a Facebook comment, then perhaps one should use that energy to do something about the issue in real life- such as volunteering for a related nonprofit or campaigning for a politician. Sure, discussions are important, but discussions that do not lead to action are, in my opinion, pointless.

Yet, here I am with a blog that contains deeply personal and politically/sociologically charged content. Worse, I post links to my blog on Facebook.

Perhaps it is the artist’s dilemma; I use writing to express myself, and I wish to make a career out of it- yet I simultaneously do not want everyone to know my business. One topic that I never divulge on the Internet is about my romantic life. However, what’s a girl to do when, for example, she’s in the beginning stages of dating someone- you know, the giddy stage where you think about that person night and day? Clearly, that person is all that she is writing about, but she doesn’t want to post a blog entry about him. Not only would that put too much pressure on the relationship and probably make the boy uncomfortable, but why does one’s entire Facebook friend list need to be updated on one’s dating life, as if it were a gossip magazine? But alas, then one’s blog goes stale for a while. Shouldn’t the artist be constantly churning out work?

I also write about other difficult, private matters such as my father passing away and losing friends. I once posted a blog entry describing how angry and alienated I felt a month after my dad’s death, but I quickly deleted it; I found it to be much too personal to share with others, and I felt very exposed. It is difficult enough to be vulnerable in front of one person in real life- try being vulnerable in front of the Internet and everyone whom you have ever met in your life.

Still, what I am to do? Write about subjects that do not matter to me?

Regarding the political/sociological content about which I write, I sometimes have the issue wherein I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders; I go into these phases in which I read the news too much or let the problems of the world affect me. I care a lot about the mistreatment of women in particular. When I write on this topic, sometimes it is in an effort to be informative or to make the reader think about it in even a slightly different way; most of the time, it is just to release it from my person. However, my Facebook friends then inevitably go into political debates whenever I post on the subject, and it bugs me.

However, what am I to do? Write about banal topics?

My favorite type of art, in short, makes me think about things or feel things. I would much rather listen to Kendrick Lamar rap about the plight of prostitutes in Compton over how 2 Chainz wants a Big Booty Hoe for his birthday. I oftentimes turn to art when I am feeling upset or alone to know that there is someone else who has been through the same thing.

That is my only consolation- that perhaps someone out there who is going through something shitty will read my writing and feel like they can relate to it.

Either that, or I need to start using a pseudonym.