hubris and social media

a lot of my friends have pointed out my conspicuous absence from social media these last few months, and i think i owe anyone (myself, included) who has ever missed my presence a sufficient, albeit delayed explanation. when my father died at the beginning of october last year, i decided to go on a social media fast. it was only supposed to last the period of my dad's short wake, and i had planned to go live again immediately after we received his ashes from the crematory. but during the week that i was "gone", some brewing thoughts and ideas turned into realizations that made me feel different about how relationships and interactions have been altered by the collective noise of our online voices. to be clear, i was unable to achieve my plans to stay away completely from all the social media platforms i've signed up with. instead of fasting, i went simply on a diet, since i still used (and continue to use) facebook to communicate with people as i already do not have viber or skype or whatsapp, or any of those applications that allow endless, mind-numbing chatter. in the beginning i was just replying to people sending their condolences, but also later on, i used facebook to make plans about future distractions. i suppose when you're grieving a loss, the world conspires to take your mind off of it, and i could not be more thankful for friends who contributed to this conspiracy.

but i decided to prolong my social media sabbatical past the day i carried my dad into my brother's car because when i shut my online curtains, i began to see farther than the stained windows that surrounded me; by refusing to speak even when i knew there were ears eager to listen, i spoke with even better clarity; by watching quietly the curated worlds of those around me unfold in real time, my own life unravelled with even greater truth. social media allows us to create and ultimately believe in the realities we imagine for ourselves, regardless of their incompleteness, insincerity, or even at times, their dishonesty. we select our posts to design the kind of life we want others to perceive, and in a virtual world where reticence is treated with criminal suspicion instead of being understood as an attempt at mystery, we willingly let go of our privacy for the sake of a world we assume is asking for details about our unfolding autobiographies.

by surrendering to the temptations of unnecessary revelations, social media exposes the unspoken poverty of our existence, where we become beggars for attention, craving approval, praise, agreement, sympathy. we clutter our pages with posts that depict us as blessed, twice blessed, busy, bored, loved, heartbroken, cherished, valued, missed. we want to tell the world – the universe, even – that we eat well, we travel, we have friends, we have family, we are passionate about our hobbies, we toil like no one else, we receive gifts, we give gifts, we do good, we work out, we train for competition, we laugh at ourselves, we're funny, we tick many boxes on an unending list, and equate the value and importance of these events by the number of reactions they receive. it is unimportant how we personally feel about any of these, since what's more relevant is the image we project of ourselves, because ultimately, things only actually happen if we inform others that they've taken place, and we display our wrinkled egos to be inflated by likes, hearts, and admiring comments.

the gnawing insecurity that demands us to act as though we were watched celebrities with an adoring public empties us into shells, seemingly whole, but with nothing inside. the substance of our beings bleed into feeds and timelines, and nothing is left for us to privately enjoy.  we are consumed by this conceit that our existence and the things we do are always worth sharing, that someone else is eager to know everything that's going on in our lives, or that the lives of other people are significantly altered and affected by what we proclaim online. but do people really care? i've often heard the dismissive attitude of social media users to criticism about inappropriate posts by pointing out the absolute control we hold over our own virtual domains. but the notion of unfettered freedom insofar as our online personas are concerned is irresponsible and arrogant. indeed, we should be allowed our thoughts and actions in the privacy of our spaces, but social media has removed our fences and surrounds us only in glass walls. we should treat our social media presence the same way we treat our lives: many things are best kept personal, private, away from the prying eyes of a curious public.

i have too often been guilty of this conceit, this insecurity, this petty immaturity that tells me i cannot enjoy a moment without requiring everyone to enjoy it vicariously. i have at times harbored assumptions that i owe the world an ongoing description of my life. by going on this voluntary hiatus, i hope i have atoned for many of my social media sins. during the last few months, by satisfying only myself instead of an audience, i have never been more fulfilled. in no way did i feel  diminished by my refusal or failure to announce any of the events that took place in my life. by choosing to focus on the things i was doing rather than planning on how i'd later portray them online, i had more time to taste the good food i ate, appreciate the moments shared with family and friends, live the experience as it took place, be comfortable and confident in what i'm wearing, and cherish the things i've worked immensely hard to achieve, with none of the pressure to gain the approval and applause of people whose opinions are less relevant to me than my own.