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.

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.

The Controlling Big Brother

“We live in a land where freedom exists.”

That statement has been thrown around, criticized, embraced, and everything else in between. Freedom is supposed to be a right— FOR ALL PEOPLE, yet there are many who feel like there is a divide or sort of favoritism when it comes to who actually gets that freedom. Then there are things like privacy that comes into question. Does everyone have the right to privacy? What is privacy? If freedom is to do what you so please, then what happens when someone else intrudes on your right to privacy? All of this restraint on human thought and physicality is questioned in George Orwell’s 1984. This novel shows London in a dystopian society, where a figure “Big Brother” leads the controlling Party. Citizens are constantly being watched through telescreens which is also overseen by the Party. They cannot say anything against the Party or Big Brother, or else suffer major consequences, even death. The people must follow all the rules placed upon their society, which is very precise.

One crime that the Party takes very seriously is thought-crime. The simple act of thinking puts the individual in a very tough situation. One cannot think of anything against the Party’s decisions and laws. For example, the Party has very strict laws about sexual activity, and seeks to rid everyone of the desire to have it. Producing a baby is a “duty to the Party” and not something married people— or people whom are simply in love, just do. So, sexual activity is prohibited unless approved by the Party (which is also so crazy), as well as the idea of it. The thought police regulate these inner most “private” ideas. They follow your every move, often times without you knowing, and read your physical movements. The slighted abnormality in your movements can say something about what you are thinking, which is exactly what the thought police want to weed out. Many people believe that we have some sort of thought police roaming around our society today. Our most private thing, our thoughts, are not so private.

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

There is no doubt that we entertain the idea of eyes constantly patrolling us. They track the places we go, listen into our phone calls, and even have the ability to go into our homes without us even knowing. But the biggest question that we all want an answer to is, “who is THEY?” The people of Oceania know that it’s Big Brother watching them, but do we know who’s watching us? It could be the government, major industries like Google or Apple, other countries, or even your next door neighbor. We can speculate, but there’s a possibility that we might not ever know.

Nowadays, we also have a kind of “newspeak” that Orwell mentions in his novel. We are developing new lingo, speaking in Emojis, and even substituting real words or actions to simple acronyms. This “destruction of words” is something that scares me most. Without a language, there is no communication, no thought, no way to express what you truly mean. With the whole movement of social media and texting, we are slowly losing the value of words. Yes, I do believe we are able to be creative through online activity and crowdsourcing, but it can be limiting as well. For example, we can tweet about one topic and then have everyone tune in via a hashtag, but once everyone is #tweeting that same message… when does it become clear that the creativity is somehow lost in translation?

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

Things like re-tweeting, re-blogging, or re-posting, take the individual idea and RE-generate the same concept. We feel like it’s always different, but in actuality, “newspeak” is trying to send us down a narrow road. We are not different. Everyone is just going to eventually say the same thing, the same exact way, and in doing so we lose any sense of creative or FREE thought.

Orwell’s novel definitely sends his reader into a state of paranoia. Freedom is put as this great right that we all have and in celebration we continually exercise it; through social media, activism, classroom conversations, etc. Yet, it is also binding. Freedom becomes the opposite of what we feel it should be because it is still just an idea. It’s that same telescreen flashing good news of freedom and how amazing it is to have. We are fascinated by it, believe in it, and constantly want to live in it… but is it even true?

Is freedom this illusion we give in to so we can feel safe? Is it a distraction to a whole different reality we are unaware of? By questioning it, yet still going about everyday life as we please, an act of ignorance?

We are a socially obsessed and highly opinionated generation. We exercise our “freedom” more than anything. But Orwell’s dystopia is no different than ours. We might not be dressed in blue overalls and have the telescreens glaring down at us. But we wear branded clothing with a Starbucks cup on one hand and our smartphones in the other. Orwell definitely gives us something to think about. Perhaps even a warning. He did write in his diary for a reason:

For the future.