Sure, when I’m off at school it’s different. I’m in “people mode” so often that sometimes I forget just how much of an introvert I am.
But when I’m home and in a social setting, that’s when I remember.
At a party, I’m the one who sits in the corner and strains to watch the television on the other side of the room, acting like I’m busy and interested, even though it’s just a repeat of that Magic Bullet infomercial no one likes. But I’d rather watch a bad actor puree avocados than have to engage in small talk.
The weather’s nice.
What do you do?
You go to school? Where do you go? What do you study?
Because at a party, I notice things that I ignore in quieter, more intimate settings. I notice the superficiality of so much of human interactions, and it bothers me.
That woman over there is pretending to care about her supposed friend’s herbs.
Those men aren’t talking about work because they want to; only because they have to.
That’s a fake laugh.
That’s a fake smile.
That’s not a friendly conversation; it’s a social competition.
Everyone has to be better than everyone else, and that’s fine if you want to live your life like that, but I have no interest. If you’re living your life like it’s one big game and you have to beat everyone else, fine, but don’t be phony. I have respect for the person who tells me they think I’m a jerk. I have none for the person who asks about my grades while hoping they can brag that theirs are better. I’m not here to engage in phony charades.
You’re overthinking it, Damian. That’s what I’m always told.
But I don’t think so. I think everyone else is under-thinking it, intentionally, trying to ignore what is so painfully, horrifically obvious.
And no, I don’t do social media, unless it’s for professional purposes.
Social networking works the same way as a party. You get a bunch of people together and superficiality seems inevitable. Which is sad. But it’s true.
I use social media because I like to see what everyone else is up to. That’s what I’m always told.
But it’s a lie. Or at least it’s not the fullest truth.
People don’t just use Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to see what everyone is up to; they use it to show everyone what they are up to. It is the digital equivalent of holding a mirror to yourself to admire your brilliance.
And how do you look?
How do you look when you’re posting pictures of your breakfast, bragging about just how amazing it looks and how delicious it is? How do you look when you engage in “humblebragging,” revealing to the world just how inauthentic your humility is? How do you look when you tell the world about your “perfect” boyfriend who brings you flowers and chocolates all the time and is the best boyfriend ever?
How do you look when you let the world know that life is just one big competition for you, and you’re winning?
I will never form my own Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr account, because I have no interest in engaging in a social competition that parades around as an extroverted, other-emphasizing phenomenon. And indeed, that’s what we try to pretend it is: a form of communication that allows us to appreciate others. But all it really does is amplify our own narcissism.
You’re just a pessimist, Damian. You should look on the bright side. That’s what I’m always told.
But I do look on the bright side, and I wouldn’t just write this to rant and complain about things I cannot control. I’ve been thinking about this more than ever, because for the first time in my life, I see the other side of things.
I found a website that I love, where a set of commenters with intellectually stimulating opinions and insights converge anonymously to discuss different timely stories. (Of course, I won’t tell anyone what it is, lest it should cease to be quite so anonymous.) It puts me in a position in which I have never found myself before: accepting and enjoying not only a form of social media, but enjoying a form of socialization (and anonymous, no less, which is particularly hypocritical, since I have been highly critical of anonymity on the web and the implications thereof).
The question for me has always been whether I can accept socialization, or whether it is always inauthentic, or at least (to some extent) contrived. And for the most part, I can’t. But another question has been whether I can accept the internet, the new forms of media and socialization that come with it, and today my answer is—at least for one community—yes.
Anonymity doesn’t always have negative implications online. The (relative) anarchy of the digital sphere does not always equal chaos.
So for today I am content, pleased to have found a community online where, for once, I can be optimistic about the state of society and the Internet.
But the need for an exploration of the topic leaves me wondering if there are indeed darker implications at play here, and whether I am simply being caught up in the same sort of blind amazement in which so many individuals found themselves, for example, in using early chat rooms. I wonder if I am simply blinded by my first personal experiences with a different form of social media.
So I guess I’m being kind of optimistic, but am I being social? That’s another question altogether. Does it count to be social online, where you cannot interact face-to-face, where your name is obscured from the view of the others in your community? How close can an online community truly be when all members are anonymous and all communication is impersonal and takes place online? I am, as always, troubled by the unanswered questions.
But maybe I do just think too much. Maybe I am just a pessimist. Maybe all forms of social networking—anonymous or not—can be just as positive a force as the online community that I discovered. But I think not.
The internet will have to go a long way before it can constitute a more authentic—in my mind—form of socialization, and it will especially have to go a long way before it can avoid the pitfalls of true socialization.
Am I antisocial or do I just wish for a better form of communication, a better way to interact with those around me?
If I am to be optimistic, as I’m told I should be, I would say the latter is the case.
I would say I hope for a future in which humanity can eliminate the narcissism, arrogance and hostility inherent in so much of our socialization processes and our social settings. Maybe I’m not antisocial after all. Maybe I’m just waiting for a brighter future.