If there is one universal truth, it is that we are hardwired to form relationships, both transient and long lasting, inside of marriage and out. And although one of the greatest philosophers said ‘I think, therefore I am’, in my mind it is much more likely to be ‘I love, therefore I am’. Never have I felt as profoundly touched as when my small daughter clings to me in a voluntary expression of love or when my partner gazes deep into my eyes.
Connection is essential, it makes us come alive.
And nowadays through our technology we have more opportunity than ever before to do so. But here’s the thing.
Technology is a joy and a delight. It educates and connects. But lest we forget, it can also be a patchy piecemeal extension of ourselves… without humanity.
It is virtual reality.
Last year the Twittersphere buzzed with shock at the death of Trey Pennington, a well-known social media personality. He was 46.
On January 11th of this year, the media was awash with stories about a man’s suicide. Aaron Schwartz an “an online activist and co-founder of the popular social media site Reddit” took his life. He was 26.
Two days later, YouTube personality Freddie E. tweeted a blow by blow account of his final minutes – a desperate cry for help – until he pulled the trigger. He was 22.
Three men all hugely connected in virtual terms, but all alone in their misery.
Technology facilitates a certain type of communication. It is a 2D façade which allows snapshots of our personalities but only shows glimpses of the whole at any one time. Texting and Tweeting are enablers of a persona which, if developed too much out of line with the rest of Your Self, can throw your whole life off balance.
The bottom line is this:
- Can you preserve your true self when you are better known on Facebook as someone you really aren’t?
- Or is living your virtual life, killing your reality?
I hold no judgment, we all like to create something or be someone we like better in front of others because looking in the mirror – warts and all – is a tough call. Sometimes we are so used to playing a role in real life, in front of parents or the boss, that it becomes second nature.
But if online, as in life, you are not your authentic self – if you cannot BE the real you – then no matter how many ‘friends’ you make, online or off, you will always be alone. Ironically the more friends you have who connect with the persona that is not you, the risk is even greater that you will feel alone and will lose yourself.
When you make yourself vulnerable and you risk more hurt from rejection because if it happens, people truly don’t like who YOU are as opposed to some fictitious persona you have invented. It’s scary. But at the same time, this way of operating will save your sanity.
Life is not like LinkedIn where people have 15 glowing recommendations and no faults. You might be funny and attractive in your statuses, but you are truly awe inspiring and beautiful in your human vulnerability. So take the mask off. Because with it you are only false, superficial and ultimately, alone.