Call it Internet fatigue or whatever but the past few days on social media, particularly Instagram has led me to seriously question if I am normal. I am not much of an active user on Instagram, but whenever I am, for some reason I feel like it is stuck in a strange loop, it’s the same events every time I login- I swipe through the stories, which are either reposts of memes I have seen, some ‘reels’ which are neither laugh-out-loud funny nor painfully unfunny, they are just the kind of jokes that make you look at them and half-chuckle in your mind, when it’s not reels that I am looking at, it’s some long rant about some controversy of the week which I will read and often times wonder why I bother wasting my time or I’d feel like I learned something and then forget about it the moment I swipe past. Sure, there are pictures and posts of my friends posting about what’s going on their lives, which I enjoy seeing, but looking at them also makes me feel strange about my relationship with them. There are people I haven’t talked to in a year, and somehow I am in their ‘close friends’ list. There are people I initiate conversations with but there’s only so much you can talk through apps, most of the conversations either end up with people ‘seen-zoning’ me, or merely ‘liking’ the message to imply that they don’t want the conversation to move forward, which I totally get. (Social media is hardly a place to have proper conversations).
To shake this weird feeling off I finally decided to look at my list of “following” and “followers”, and see if I can filter it out a bit. I realized that there are barely five people in the list that I’ve had a vis-a-vis conversation with in the past year, and at least ten people with whom I have Whatsapped a little, and the others mostly consist of faces I have briefly seen in my life, people who hate my guts, or Internet friends that I made on Facebook.
The natural course of action would be to remove the people who hate my guts, but that felt weird too because if I remove them, that would seem like I am being salty, but if I keep them I’ll only be adding to their amusement, because I am pretty sure the only reason I am in their list is for them to judge me for the shit I post.
The five people I have Whatsapp-ed with and the ten people who I have met in the past year, couldn’t give two shits about what’s going in my life, so posting on Instagram seemed pointless too. So, I settled with reposting memes to amuse my followers, or by sharing the creative works that some of the people in my list post, at least my Instagram will be useful in helping them get more views.
But the uneasiness still didn’t leave me, I’d still feel clueless on the app. So, I went ahead and asked a few people (the same people I mentioned having been in touch with in the last year) about why they use Instagram so much, to my surprise even they complained about hating it and being left with a bad mood after using it, but they simply couldn’t stop using it. It is then that I noticed that Instagram had turned into one of those things that one does when merely looking away from something for a bit; before the Internet took over the world, people used to look outside the window for a few seconds when they briefly wanted to pause their work, or they would just stare at the ceiling, or simply sit idle, but today those habits are replaced with people picking up their phones to look at Instagram and guess what? It’s making them feel worse.
Sure, Instagram is primarily an image-sharing site, and with the growing numbers of influencers, and e-boys, e-girls culture, it’s bound to make some people feel insecure too, but that’s a discussion for another day.
What I am interested in is merely the act of opening the app when not even really wanting to open it.
I noticed that nobody really cares about at least more than half of the people on their list, and people barely notice what anyone has posted about their lives. Sure, there’s the occasional raised eye-brows if someone posts about something very significant, like someone doing exceptionally well in life, or if somebody got an atrocious haircut and doesn’t realize it, but the curiosity towards each other has only been limited to these levels.
Seeing all this reminded me of a quote that I once heard but perfectly sums up this current scenario, it was a quote by Sam Esmail, the creator of this amazing series called “Mr. Robot”, he said something like “Social media merely gives you the illusion that you are in touch with people, you see their names and posts on your feed and think “hey, I see their posts, I am still in touch with them” but that’s hardly a relationship…. it’s because of this behavior that a lot of us are aching from loneliness deep down and don’t even realize it”
Now there’s obviously a counter-argument to that, some people have strengthened their friendships online, some have even made friends online, but do these online relationships really fill the primal need for man to socialize? And I mean not build circles on social media, but socialize in a more raw form- like being close to people physically, experiencing their touch, the way the sound when they laugh, etc. Speaking from experience, my online friendships have been nothing but a fun ride, I have met some really amazing people online, I spend a lot of time on Facebook, but once the phone is kept aside, deep down the void in my “socialization meter” still remains, all the time I spend interacting with people online does make me feel good for a bit, but it’s more amusement than the feeling of socializing.
I feel like a lot of us today confuse this amusement with socializing, and this leads to an unhealthy coping mechanism like relying on Instagram to fill that void. Once I realized this, I deactivated my account. I am not saying I would never be back on Instagram, I definitely would (it’s next to impossible to completely avoid something that literally everyone in your circles are indulging in most of their time), but by then I would hopefully learn what to do with my account and not get sucked into the overindulgence that everyone else is engaging in.
I tried using Twitter, but the less spoke about that site, the better.
Until then I am fine with Facebook and Whatsapp.
I know that Facebook is also something that can be debated about and called as something as shitty as Instagram but hear me out here, Facebook is as much of a text site, as much as it is a site for pictures and videos. Instagram is primarily a site for images, and then comes videos and texts, so naturally a site filled with so many faces is bound to make you feel a false sense of connections with these many people. My social interactions on Facebook are next to none, there’s barely anyone posting about their lives, it’s always memes, or jokes, most of the people in my friends list are people who have no interest in anything beyond making jokes, the whole culture has such an ironic vibe to it that there’s barely any chance for even the illusion of closeness with one another.
And as for Whatsapp, I am sure the day I abandon the app I won’t just lose contact with the five people on Whatsapp, but also another five from the people I have met face-to-face recently.
Such is the influence of social media in our lives, one can’t even fully get rid of it.
Even making a call is something that’s supremely weird to most people these days, and I am guilty of it too sometimes, and I fully blame this on how accessible social media has made communication.
There are some friends I’d like to randomly call on the phone but doing so would only strain our relationship if anything, they’d consider me a weirdo for not just texting them.
Thirty years ago, if you’d randomly call an acquaintance on the phone, or send them a mail, it would be considered endearing rather than weird, but in today’s world we are so fatigued by this ‘false-socialization’ that we sometimes wait hours, days, even months to open a text from a person that’s hanging around in the chat box simply because we just don’t have the energy to have a conversation.
I know I might be seeming like a strange hybrid of a hipster and a boomer, by romanticizing the old-fashioned ways and blaming today’s culture, but that’s okay. This was a rant, and I feel good after letting it out.
If you are reading this, I hope you take something from it, and if you read it, and it made you think, and then you forget about it the moment you close the tab, I wouldn’t blame you for it. I get it.