If the Bible were to be reproduced, “Thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself” would surely find its place.
We live in chaotic times, where loneliness and social media go hand in hand–often complementing and complicating people’s lives.
Life and Times in the Age of Social Media
These days, with access to social media, our social realities are generated in the virtual world. An era of snappy chatter applications – Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and House-party – where one’s social realities exist.
Today’s generation would not be able to imagine life without the internet. Life before Facebook and Snapchat has ceased to exist in our lived realities. Life without a mobile screen would seem as dull as a glance at a starless, gloomy sky.
Loneliness and Social Media
We live in an era where real space is shrinking like never before. Loneliness and social media have been driving our society. A decade ago, the answer would induce scepticism if asked whether they would talk to a stranger on Facebook. In today’s world, we meet people and un-meet them within a few seconds.
Instagram grapples with our egotistical self and excessive confidence. It is where lies become truth, relationships are perfect, family members are blocked, and everyone shows off the best of their lives. Throughout the day, we would scroll through the feed and feel real.
Virtual Reality and Living with Social Media
As much as we enjoy sliding into the messages of others, we are also dealing with our inability to access reality. We are, therefore, attempting to feel happy in the virtual world of social media. You know how it goes: you slide into a DM of a person you want to talk to and begin your wait game.
You do not feel a thing about it, even if you expect a ‘hi’ from the other end. Within those 10 minutes of exchange of words, you open up about your personal, detailed stories about how your life should be.
Half an hour into the conversation, you are melancholy about how your partners cheated on you and what you did about it. And so on.
Realities have faded into an unexpected desire for the unknowns. In our quest to enjoy our virtual reality and social media, we open up to the unknowns so much that we surrender ourselves. We convey our darkest fantasies, miserable ecstasy, and sad desires to the unknowns.
We create stories for them about our lives that exist only in our imaginations. You convey to them how much you hate your so-and-so friends. How much would you want to sleep with an erudite physics professor, whom you had until then restricted to your dreams?
For the unknowns, we create realities and recreate them so that they meet their perfect passion.
Why would we say anything to the ones we do not know?
One reason would be that we cease to have any expectations from people who do not know us. We also feel secure because we do not know or intend to know them.
As a result, our insecurities are hidden in a toolbox that we would never wish to open. In this context, Malcolm Gladwell writes, “Sometimes the best conversations with strangers allow the stranger to remain a stranger.” The unknowns become our tool to deal with reality as it exists.
Grappling with identity, self, and virtual spaces
As I began inquiring why one finds it easier to talk to the unknowns, someone on Instagram said, “Every new stranger will evoke a new identity in individuals. As a result, with every new stranger, fresh self-identity is formed.”
Someone else replied, “It enables you to explore different surroundings and upbringing.” The stranger is like a clean slate. You can draw any version of yourself. A good friend wrote: “We find comfort in talking to a stranger because we can pretend to be someone we are not.
And as humans, we have grown desperate and lonely. Thus, we will mould ourselves into someone the stranger likes.” And as a result, we have grown closer to loneliness and social media.
It is wild how much we love talking to the unknowns more than our friends. Unknowns don’t judge us; even when they do, we don’t care. If the Bible were reproduced, “Thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself” would find its place.
However, Matthew would have cautioned us in the next verse, “Keep thy stranger as a stranger.” With the unknowns, we always have an option of not knowing them.
We could vent out all day long, everything we want, and have a veto over the ‘block-clause’. If the creeps come your way in the form of unknowns, which is far more likely, the block option is a touch away.
Seeking Happiness in the Unknowns/Strangers
We seek happiness in the unknowns.
We tend to find another us in them. Or know how the other is different from us. Thus, a stranger always contains an element of surprise rather than a pleasant discomfort. We tend to portray our life as it exist or as we wish them to be.
Through such an exercise, we put a smile on our faces and reserve our realities for the ones we know. As a result, loneliness and social media function as apparent cousins.
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