Rethinking Our Social Self: Are we really lonely?

Do you ever just watch a video and it makes you think? This one actually touched on many things I have been thinking about lately as it correlates to social media and how we present ourselves.

Ironically, this is something I have had friends write about in the past as well. The idea of personal branding and how we present ourselves and grade our on lives is not a new revelation. The thoughts provoked in this video is nothing new as well. It relates to personal social branding and how we grade ourselves on how we present our life in public. Social networks have created this new environment and…in many ways…we are pioneers when we don’t even know it. But now I am digressing…I want to actually take a look at what this video is addressing and what I think about it.

Are we really lonely?

I would argue yes…at least from my perspective. There are others that will disagree and that is probably because they have different life experiences. For me, this last year has been a journey into myself and how I deal with situations, feelings, friends and experiences. While it is enlightening in many ways…it is also eye opening in exposing areas that need drastic improvement.

In a world that you can share every thought, feeling and experience…there is a false realization that we are actually communicating. Are we talking to each other? Yes. But are we really communicating is the real question I ask myself a lot.

That lucky number 150

The video states that we are only capable of creating intimate relationships with 150 people. For me…that seems a little bit of a pipe dream. While I would like to think I am capable to create that many close relationships…the reality is that I am not. For others that might be true but that is just not in my bag of tricks. I am the guy that puts on the “dick face” (as my wife likes to call it) when I go to get the mail. I don’t want to talk to anyone and I like it that way. I have a really hard time remembering peoples names. I just can’t get to that level with that many people.

Unfortunately, with modern day social media, I get a false sensation of actually getting “intimate” with that many people and more. I get to see your name in front of my face and what you are doing. Of course, this is your version of what you are doing at the time just like what you see of my life is what I chose of your to see in my own translation. The ironic part is that it is also all completed with a single person looking at a phone or computer just like me typing this at this point in time.

Conversation vs. Communicating

Over the past couple of months, I have really tried to take an honest look at the conversations I have online versus actually communicating online. If I am going to be truthful with myself…you guys see the best of what I want you to see whether it is a good or bad experience, situation or feeling. It is the edited version of me. In person…there is no editing. Well, at least you will be able to tell I am trying to with the uncomfortable silences or pauses.

While I do believe that we all have the best intentions online…at least for me (sorry if I repeat that over and over again. I am just trying to project the feelings of others)…I can look back now at how much I edit and proofread my own life on social networks. The weird part about this is that it creates the same situation I hate in business that you find with email (especially in the beginning of email).

The eyes reading your words never really get the full meaning of what you are saying. 

How many times have you had to explain your words in type because the other side didn’t read it the same way you were typing it? How many times did you obsess about every word and rewrite things numerous times before making it live?

For me at least…a lot. It is a difficult thing to deal with in a digital world. There isn’t that human connection through speech that levels the playing field. Espcially over the last year and a half or so, I feel like I have had plenty of conversation with friends (life circumstances have made it more difficult to get together on a regular basis), but I have had far less actual communication between friends. That connection that you get from face to face talking is not the same in social and typed text.

I can actually think of several friendships that have been strained due to this. Honestly, it makes me sad. Not because I feel that it is one person’s fault because it isn’t. It is the reality of a digital world where edited text is seen and interpreted by the other side. Everyone has their own life experiences that effects how they read or write words. It doesn’t make it wrong. It is just how it is.

So are we really more lonely thanks to our new digital world?

I would argue yes and no for my life. I do have the ability now to keep in touch with people that I don’t get to see as often. I get to share the points in my life that bring me happiness, sadness…and frankly the ones I just find funny that don’t mean anything at all. But as the video says above…these are all the edited versions I decide to show. And as I just stated…that might be translated differently on the other side because that human interaction got reduced to a computer or cell phone screen…and that…by definition makes you actually alone. For me…it does make me lonely.

Loneliness is not an innovation as the video tries to hook you in with. It has been here way before the digital age and it will be here with any other “next big thing” as well. I do think that our current state allows people to act like they are not lonely when they really are because they confuse internet conversation with communication. You are getting the best self marketing of the people you see in text…and that isn’t always translated correctly. That doesn’t even take into a fact of current circumstances or predispositions to feelings that people aren’t aware of.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I need to try harder. I need to make sure I don’t substitute digital for real life. In the past (before we had Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), I would actually have to pick up the phone or hang out with friends to find out what is going on in their lives. The reality is that I probably got a to more interaction and communication through that than online. It takes more effort but it keeps friends and family longer because their is less to translate or make assumptions about. There is also a lot less ability to use the keyboard as a platform.

So…once again..are we really lonely? Kind of…but what I should really say is I instead of we because I can’t speak for you.


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