Tag Archives: loneliness

The Cult of Social Media

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

“Not everyone can be a hero. There are more people who need to be saved.” -Anonymous

My fourteen-year-old daughter videotapes me. I am dancing and singing to the latest hip hop tune on the radio. She quickly uploads the video to Snapchat and labels it, “My Mom is Silly.” She giggles as she plays it back for me. When I fail to protest against the post, she deletes it. “Why did you do that?” I ask. “I want to be the most popular mom on Snapchat.”

She shakes her phone at me. “No, you don’t.”

I laugh, but inside I feel like my father. He wanted fame and fortune for his four daughters, but he didn’t get it. He taught us to dream big; not knowing our dreams would leave us orphans living ordinary lives.

But with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media, everyone is entitled to their daily shot at fame and for some, even fortune. Everyone has a chance to be a hero. Everyone has a chance to save the world with a few clicks at the keyboard. Suddenly you are the star of your own show, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have enough followers to inflate your ego for weeks at a time…or at least until your next post.

With all of this power comes the threat of loss of privacy, loss of intimacy, and the loss of self. Some video bloggers record everything about their day from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Sure, those 12 hours may be edited to last only 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes shared are now owned by the viewer, whether it’s one person or one million people.

My daughter values her privacy. That’s why she only uses Snapchat with the hopes that the 30 second videos that disappear shortly after being posted are truly deleted from the Internet and won’t resurface three years later when she’s applying for college or a job.

As a middle-aged parent, I understand her concern and her guardedness, but as an author and a public speaker, I can’t afford anonymity. I can’t “save face” as my father always preached. I have to show my face whether or not what I’ve done is shameful or glorious. It’s part of the job.

We sometimes forget the public doesn’t need to know everything, especially when we are sitting in the comfort of our living room posting our thoughts and feelings for the world to see. It gives us a sense of belonging that temporarily erases the loneliness of our increasingly solitary lives.

But is social media the panacea to our isolation? And does it truly replace the intimacy we crave?

We go online for everything from shopping to information, but we go offline to live. It’s in those moments of being face to face with another human being that we get a chance to express what we hold in our hearts to be true: our irreplaceable uniqueness is what makes us sympathetic and real.

Always the First Time

Desperate for company, I turned on the TV to watch 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The Hawaiian atmosphere seemed soothing after a long day at work. I proceeded to paste Indie Excellence stickers on my stock of Out of Balance books while only listening to the movie as background noise. But halfway through the movie, I couldn’t work anymore. I was captivated by the young woman who lost her short term memory as the result of an auto accident. She could remember everything that happened before the accident, but anything new she only retained for 24 hours. Her mind became a tabula rosa overnight.

Of course, the island’s biggest womanizer, Henry Roth, falls in love with her. Lucy, however, can’t remember him after the first day. Her father, brother, and friends care too much about Lucy to let her be victimized by someone looking for a one night stand without consequences. But Henry is insistent. He endures Lucy’s violent rage when she does not recognize him even after spending the previous day enveloped in his arms, whispering sweet nothings. He believes his love for her will heal her mind. It doesn’t. But he still goes on loving her, knowing he is powerless to fix her.

I identified with Henry. I live with and love a disabled person. I understand the unique challenges of trying to live a normal life while trying to do what’s best for the one you love. Unlike Henry, I am bound by moral and legal obligations. Henry, however, could have any woman he wanted. He chose Lucy. Loving someone deeply always plunges you into the unknown, but loving a disabled person forces you to be breathless and terrified and alive. You become more aware, more creative, more intuitive, more adventurous, because you want to connect with a person who lives in an insular world circumscribed by protective routines. What amazed me most of all was Henry’s willingness to give up his normal life to become part of Lucy’s broken world, a world where he has to struggle every day not only to get her to recognize him, but to win her heart all over again. He battles bad days when she rages against him, throwing lamps and dishes at his head because she thinks he is an intruder in her father’s house. But there are good days, too, where he finds a way to reach out to her and bridge the familiarity of one day with the uncertainty of the next. He even rewrites his dreams to incorporate her into them, because he loves her.

On the other hand, Lucy’s disability comes with its own blessing: she could not remember the sins of yesterday. What freedom comes with that! Imagine your spouse forgetting everything you’ve ever done wrong and falling in love with you for the first time. Now imagine that happening every day for the rest of your life. Incredible. Absolutely incredible, right? There would be no divorce for irreconcilable differences because you would never remember any disharmony in your relationship after a good night’s sleep. There would be no reason for adultery because every day you would be falling in love for the first time. Life would be fresh. Each day we would enjoy a first smile, a first laugh, a first kiss.

Unfortunately, normal people do not live their lives this way. Normal people hold grudges close to the chest as if guarding precious metal. They sink under the weight of their memories. They imagine their lives as a chain of gloomy, dungeon-filled days with people they used to love once, a long time ago, when they were young and stupid, and they only choose to stay together because of moral or legal or financial responsibilities.

But what if everyone was damaged like Lucy? What if our memories were as evanescent as soap bubbles, here one moment and gone the next? Would we be able to stop destroying any chance at love taking root and transforming our lives? Could we drop our expectations of perfection or happily-ever-after or any other fantasy we might entertain? Could we learn to accept our own and each other’s limitations? Could we wake up each morning with the horror of our brokenness and the amazement for our blessings? Could we make our old and tired relationships new?

For underneath all the trappings of social and economical status, we are broken. We want to be loved for who we are by someone who can genuinely love us back. We want to start each day fresh, letting all the mistakes of yesterday dissolve into the nothingness of forgetting. We want to wake up and embrace the ones we love with amazement and gratitude for what we have been given, not with the terror for what has been taken away. The good news is we do not have to lose half our minds to discover the beauty of falling in love over and over again with someone who can accept us as we are, damaged and imperfect, ragged and flawed. We can choose to make each moment the first time, if we are conscious, if we are aware, if we are truly present and alive. We can make all things new.