Social Media, Gen-Y, and Anxiety: The Struggle

social media

If someone ever denies the satisfaction of receiving “likes” on social media, know that they are lying. No, I don’t care what they say. They are lying. End of story. To some it’s a stamp of validation. “I am noticed!” “They like me!” “I fit it!” #notbasic. It is a satisfying feeling to be in the loop of things and be recognized.

Fine, let me back off just a little bit. I’m not saying it is a bad thing to want a few hits on social networks. What I am saying is that people take it too far and allow it to define who they are. Even worse, people stress over it. Social media is a part of Generation Y’s lifestyle. I was asked if I had friends or knew anyone who didn’t have social media. Yes, I do: my grandmother. It is so rare to have teens (and now, pre-teens) to be invisible when it comes to SNS. The new-school kids speak another language and use a different platform of communication. We are tweeting, “checking-in” on Facebook, blogging, Instagraming, you name it. Social media is one of our milestones! I advocate for the good it does, but am also fully aware and even more involved in expressing the dark sides to Social Networking Sites (SNS). With everything that surrounds this epidemic, the biggest side-effect is anxiety. Gen-Yers are being consumed by SNS and literally fall into a dark hole because of it.

In Karan Singh’s Elite Daily article, he points out there are case studies that support the notion that SNS causes mental disorders like anxiety and narcissism. The purposes of SNS are not in question, it’s the dependency of it that is. He breaks it down to two types of social media goers: the professional versus the personal.

For those who leisurely use the virtual world, which is most of us, for personal purposes, we don’t realize that we have subconsciously created a personal brand image via social media.  The pressure to maintain this image is what contributes to our growing anxiety.

Singh touches on a very interesting point. For the many of us who use SNS for personal use see it as an opportunity not only to document our life, but to document it in a certain way. What we upload is our choice and says a lot about who we are as individuals. In building up this “brand image” we seek for it to justify who we believe we are. The back-story to all this decision-making isn’t really talked about. Why do we choose not to upload a selfie on bad hair days or tweet ten tweets in a row about heartbreak? Because we want those viewing it to see us as this flawless and strong individual. Sure, we might post one picture with a bit of fly-away hair or even post one tweet about how sappy we feel, but not to the point where it is excessive. We don’t ever want to be the over-dramatic, self-centered, or lazy type some of of our real emotions  actually portray.

Let’s be honest, we all have that one person in our lives that certainly acts like this. And how we view them isn’t so great, therefore, we tend to stay away from that same opinion in dealing with what we share. It is not only what an individual wants to remember and chose to share on profiles, but the audience perception as well. If we compare our SNS to a brand company, then I am sure we have an understanding on the importance of representation as well as reputation: Our presence or activity and our kind of activity. CEOs want to be great, visible, and perfect. One bad review can ruin everything. That is why anxiety is linked to the SNS “company” we build. We don’t want to slip up.

In Dave Eggers’ The Circle, we see how Mae and all the other Circlers are concerned with PartiRanks and reputation. PartiRanks reflect how mobile you are on social media and your overall activity surrounding posts (Circlers call it “zings”). The whole novel surrounds itself in the feeling of anxiety! In order to have a good PartiRank score you have to constantly be uploading, commenting, and RSVPing to all the major events. If you don’t, then you are outcasted and questioned for being inactive. The Circle is the leading company in technological advances and has the strongest presence in the SNS world. They literally have a brand image to uphold, as do its employees who are its heart and soul of the company. To live up to such a prominent name, Circlers’ anxiety is heightened. It’s either you fit in or you don’t. And not fitting in and being a part of the company is bad news. Just like the Circlers, Gen-Yers must continue this legacy in order to be known, while also keeping in mind that it is not just any legacy but ‘The Legacy.’

It is not easy to deal with the anxiety social media comes with. I always said that if people can’t deal with the bashers and trolls on the Internet, then they should just click out. Better yet, they should just delete their profiles. But my perspective has shifted. Anxiety and social media is a real thing with no simple answer. Once someone has an online profile and experiences the uneasy feeling it can often give you, then saying to stay off the Internet doesn’t seem like the right answer. The damage is already done. Now, I feel like anxiety and narcissism alongside social media should be an issue to address. It is just as important as any other mental disorder and social issue.

With the availability of the Internet for many around the world, this social world of ours will only continue to expand and grow. As this transpires, the definition of a person with a social media addiction will change along with it. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) was recently published with revisions of certain personality disorders, one of them being narcissism, for example.

Social media doesn’t look like it will die down any time soon, nor will the baggage it carries become any lighter. We see in the novel that the pressure to keep up with mainstream media, SNS, and our image can be stressful, even maddening. We shouldn’t only focus on the good that the Internet has done for us, but the menacing side to it as well. There is another story to be told about what we post online. We have to address the mindsets we develop outside of our screens and look into our own mind. “The Struggle” isn’t just expressed in our posts online, but an actual real, long-term issue that we experience today.


Source:

Singh, Karan. “Social Media Is Changing How We’re Hardwired, Giving Us Much More Anxiety.” Elite Daily. 9 Aug. 2013. Web.

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Privacy & Anonymity Today

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With the use of Distance Machine, we can see that there is a drastic increase of using terms “Privacy” and “Anonymity.”   Dave Eggers’ The Circle, provides proof to the heighten concerns of many in modern literature and life in general. Privacy and anonymity are related in their definition as being “hidden.” However, they are more like cousins than they are identical twins. Privacy is a right. Everyone should be entitled to share or conceal what they want to the public. Anonymity is a choice. The person who feeds or masks this information can chose whether they want to reveal the source from which it all comes from: themselves/others. There is the actual information versus the person(s) telling it.

In the novel, both terms are stripped from the individual. There is no such thing as privacy because “Privacy is Theft” and Circlers just don’t play that kind of ballgame. It’s considered as blasphemy!  Everything, from major events like campus parties and inventions, to simply indicating one’s blood type, is shared and “zinged.” Keeping secrets make people miserable and stored information should be shared so EVERYONE can benefit from it. To hide anything is basically taking away from another person’s benefits.

The two charts above shows how The Circle isn’t the only novel stirring up some controversy and concern about privacy and anonymity. Nowadays, people “tweet” whatever they want to say, upload as many pictures they please, and “check-in” to every single place they go to. This constant update we make on our social profiles is no different from the Circlers’. Of course, we still want our privacy. Yet, are we even respecting the term when we ourselves are so quick to give it away? Not only has the exchange of information and “privacy” completely changed, but how we view ourselves in that process did as well. There’s so many fake profiles and anonymous faces on the web that play both devil and angel. These faceless profiles set out to cause major trouble like cyber-bullying or “trolling.” The issue of cyber-bulling has increased over time and is starting at even younger ages since early research surrounding it began. On the other side, these figures leak information that is hidden from us. Like government documents or “unwanted news.” It raises the question: “Who can we trust?”

I believe that the increase of “Privacy” and “Anonymity” is due to social media and Internet access. The Web is where anything can happen. You can say what you want, when you want to, and however way you so please. These aren’t just books that research the birth of the Digital Age and how it uses these terms, but to also show the anxiety built around it.

ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.

It’s no coincidence that the title of this post is in all caps.

Dave Egger’s The Circle makes it clear that privacy is something that isn’t a luxury to us anymore, or at least as it once was. Mae Holland lands a job at the prestigious company, The Circle, whose great influence on technology and social media is known throughout the globe. This place is entrancing. It has all these cool gadgets, dorms that feel like 5-star hotel rooms, and parties for staff members. It’s every social-media junkie or gadget-nerd’s dream job. Yet when we go further into the novel, we discover the dark side to the company and it’s mission.

Eamon Bailey, one of the three CEOs of The Circle, announces their latest project: SeeChange. It’s a small camera that’s the size of a lollipop, which can record high-definition images from practically anywhere. The best parts to this product is that it can go undetected and is very affordable. It’s lightweight, small, and of great quality. Bailey expresses how significant this product is not only for personal use, but for foreign affairs as well. Countries that are under authoritarian regimes can be monitored and “held accountable” for any actions they take. If there is one thing I took out of Bailey’s speech, it’s that SeeChange is the ultimate stalk-cam. Someone can be recording you and you would even have the slightest clue.

He turned again toward the screen and read it, inviting the audience to commit it to memory: “All that happens must be known.”

Bailey flashes this message to everyone in the company, almost in a brain-washing way, to not only promote SeeChange but to instill the true mission of The Circle. I knew from the beginning that The Circle was too good to be true. I mean, free tablets and organic mattresses to sleep on whenever you please? Where’s my application form?

But I must say, reading even further made me stop to think about signing on the dotted line. Bailey’s mantra is a warning. His company’s colt-like environment wants to take out the individual and link everyone’s lives together. Employees encourage “zinging,” similar to nowaday’s posts or tweets, so everyone is updated on each other’s lives. The more hits and activity you get, the greater your PartiRank is. The tablets and cellphones are all hardwired to feed into the motherboard. The Circle can literally know everything about you and use that information to their advantage. And that advantage can become your disadvantage. “All that happens must be known” is literal and in being so, it should send shivers down your spine.

In this Digital Age, we already knocked down the walls of our private life. Admit it to yourself, your social media accounts has been updated at least once today, just like every other day prior to. Your thoughts and actions are documented as they unfold, keeping what was once  considered private, now public. We don’t really think twice about posting on our websites. We feel safe enough that hitting “Private” on our settings will enable some kind of firewall to protect us from those we don’t want snooping around our pages. But it’s the complete opposite. Like SeeChange, monitors are going around undetected. What’s on the Internet, is on the Internet… forever.

Mae’s consent to all that The Circle asks of her to do is also something to think about. We want to have a place in this world. We want a sense of belonging. So, we follow employer’s instructions and company policies like our life depends on it. Often times, we do not question why or what does it matter. We simply follow and give the big thumbs up. This reflex is seen when agreeing to Terms & Conditions of a company. It’s a long list of things we just don’t want to read, yet agree to because we want to be able to be a part of it. Not agreeing to the Terms & Conditions means that you won’t be able to use the product or website. Now, who wants to be labeled as a loser for not signing up? Exactly. So we give our consent, to whatever it is the company asks, even if we aren’t aware of what exactly that is.

Whether it is twisted company policy or even our own conscious decision: information is going to be sent out into the open. Everything about us will be known. And terrifyingly enough, it may already be so.