“Everything is going to be okay,” I’ve been saying on repeat. To myself, to other people, to stray cats, to no one in particular. Every year this happens, so it should come as no surprise. I have never ever been a winter person. I keep thinking it will change, that one of these Christmases will just be so spectacular that I am fully energized to take on the next year’s goals and resolutions with the gumption they deserve, all polar vortexes be damned. Despite the evident awesomeness that was my 2013 holiday season I can’t seem to resist the dark temptation to emotionally self indulge.
It happened a lot in college. When I wasn’t working on papers or in retail with no access to my phone, I would sit in my room bored out of my mind refreshing facebook over and over. There may not have been anything good on the internet, I thought, but I was going to waste my time with it anyway. And what would come of this? Not much, except longform analyses of every other person’s instagrams and tweets and profile pictures, and then my instagrams and tweets and profile pictures, and then their worth (calculated using an algorithm based on average likes, followers, and how much I happen to envy them), and then my self worth (which of course could never compete). The next thing I knew it’d be 3 in the morning, the skin on the inside of my bottom lip would be rough from gnawing nervously as I spiraled deeper and deeper into an identity crisis–a crisis based on identities with no inherent truth or validity, mere projections of aspiration and constructed self image–at a speed so seemingly beyond my control it would begin to snowball into a fully formed depression.
Will I ever be as popular as her?
Will I ever have someone like him?
Who am I really? URLy? IRLy?
What is my value as a human being? Physical, spiritual, virtual?
Will anyone ever appreciate me at the level I need?
Why do I need it? Am I weaker than other people?
And this was before I had a smartphone. Imagine my chagrin years later, while isolating myself from the cold, to find myself in the same vortex of self doubt.
Truthfully, social media statistics are just a glorified version of high school yearbook superlatives socially accepted by adults. I frequently make the argument that who we are on the internet is no less genuine than the identity we construct in the physical world. To draw an inequality is to place too much inherent value on “the identity” itself, something that while we each cling to it for survival in a modern society, while we were raised as millennials to believe that each and every one of us is special and unique and important in a way that has never before existed, while fashion and music and the food we eat feel like an outward expression of an internal truth, is merely a combination of options that have been decided for us from an incomprehensibly intricate social construction. How can the clothes that I wear and the words that I say and the people I consort with in the physical world be considered any more valuable than their virtual counterparts? The way that I look in person isn’t any more real than online (photoshop? makeup? plastic surgery? haircuts? the infinite ways I could choose to dress myself?). I have “known” people for years in strictly offline relationships that have never come close to the intimacy I have achieved with some online. The internet is as real as reality, people, which is to say, not at all.
There is quite a bit to be said for physical contact, though, isn’t there. Being able to touch the person you love and physically experience them is something technology has not quite been able to accurately simulate and a luxury I certainly long for every day in my long distance relationship. While I can place myself mentally miles away by digitally engaging 24/7 with people in another city (and I do), I cannot be satiated, cannot rest assured that I have not missed anything, cannot drift to sleep without a palpable loneliness and two burning retinas from staring at screens. What I do have that I don’t in “real life,” is the ability to stare at what I wish I had, who and where I wish I were, all day every day until I have ignored my physical life so successfully that I don’t even know how to go to the bathroom anymore without my phone much less carry on a conversation.
I appreciate everything technology has afforded me, but maybe I should take a step back. In high school I deleted AIM off my computer because I was unable to focus on anything but the alert sound I had set for my crush, and it was the best choice I could have made for myself. I focused on schoolwork, I made art in my spare time. Then Facebook came along and ruined all of that AND gave me access to the personal information of every person that has ever dated anyone I’ve ever liked.
I compare myself to my friends a lot too. I asked Alex how he was getting so many facebook likes on his most recent blog post (you know, aside from the fact that it’s great) and he was like “Take a look, I have far more friends than you. They’re coming out of the woodwork! I never delete.” I do delete. Until recently I was a big fan of the delete. Why would I want to afford a person access to my life if it serves me no benefit? Ah, yes, the curse of self-promotion. Or another I’ve been experiencing lately, the curse of the NEED TO KNOW. You know the Need to Know curse. A girl you don’t like lurks your boyfriend…her face and her words make you uneasy and defensive…passive aggression rules all of your interactions. There’s no reason for you stay connected to this person other than to “keep tabs on them,” or, more accurately, to feel bad about yourself. It’s Media Masochism at its finest, and what’s more, it says a whole hell of a lot about your trust issues, your level of self esteem, and in my case, a lot about how, despite my attempts to progress, I still partake in the patriarchal construct of a necessity for competition between women.
I want to be stronger. I want to ascend to a level of comfort with all my identities and lack thereof, namely the still fetal relationship I have with myself that I go to bed with every night and wake up with every morning. I want to be comfortable alone, in this physical space right here and right now. I want to look forward and face the fucking snow even though I hate it so much and remember that there will be a Spring, there will be a Summer, and that a time will come where I rise to the level of success and popularity and appreciation that I think I deserve.
And most of all, I want to remember that it all means nothing unless I can truly love my Self. In all its forms.