Ola Haj Hassan
You lie on your bed late at night, trying to defeat insomnia and what seems to be a premature identity crisis. You want to ask yourself so many questions, but instead, you just reach for your smartphone and scroll through the newsfeed on one of your social media accounts, in the hope of eventually surrendering to sleep.
You come across some existential and nihilistic memes shared by your friends, as well as some semi-sarcastic posts about life with depression or anxiety; you find these quite relatable, if not to your current life, then certainly to some of your recent phases at least.
For a second, social media seems to tell you that you are not alone in the world, and that it is completely normal for you to be tossing and turning in your bed on a sleepless night, because others are doing the same. But is social media merely a platform onto which you project your anxieties, or is it partially responsible for your anxieties in the first place?
Social media gives its users a sense of control over their lives, because it offers them things that they cannot enjoy in reality.
It is difficult to look good all the time, yet it’s easy to create a profile using only pictures of your good side, with ideal angles and lighting. It is difficult to say the right things all the time, yet it seems easy to post and edit witty comments. It is difficult to take pleasure in seeing without being seen, but it is easy to stalk people’s online profiles without arousing any serious concern.
Social media evokes your desire for consistency: by constantly posting things of the same genre, you can control the theme of your online profile. Before you know it, you become restricted by the online persona that you create, and afraid of contradicting it. Somehow, you feel the pressure to live up to an ideal image that you built for yourself on social media, even when this ideal image is far from being so.
Your own online identity might give you something to worry about, but so do the online identities of other people. The abundance of photos on social media of people doing activities together produces an illusion that everyone is out there being productive and sociable, while you are probably alone in the company of your smartphone, and this results in what is known as “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO).
Little do you know, however, that sometimes the seemingly fantastic events that you miss out on, barely last beyond the time needed to take the photos and post them on social media. FOMO creates an unsettling feeling of having better places to be and better things to do when that is not necessarily the case.
When you feel the urge to hide from your boredom or loneliness, or from the sources of your worry, anxiety, and stress, you might want to look less at your smartphone, more at your life, and more into your own mind.