What do you see every single day that everyone else sees? That could range from many things from the high towers in London to a dog owner walking their pet in a park. There’s one thing in particular that comes to mind that usually lies behind the screen of a computer or a smart phone.
I am, of course, talking about these images of perfection that are being thrown at us. Perfect-looking men and women on Instagram with all the money in the world. Adverts for new gym memberships and new anti-aging cream which demonizes the whole idea of getting old or fat or anything that isn’t in the picture you’re looking at.
Of course it can be dismissed as just an advert that may not be your thing, but I’m not a fan of something that plants a seed of insecurity within which starts growing off of your own negative energy. Adverts are meant to create urgency, a desire to want something enough so you’ll pay for it. That supposedly great feeling of wanting something doesn’t last when you get what you want. The drive disappears, and you need to get everything you can out of what you’ve just owned to convince yourself that it was worth every penny, or else you feel like you’ve just burned your money.
Just like adverts for anti-aging cream, filters on Instagram can work just as bad for distorting your perceptions in life. Instagram encourages this idea in our minds that we need to look perfect. More likes, more satisfaction, and hopefully more of a following. The kind of things that can put you on a pedestal in your own mind once you get what you want. Then you meet someone in real life and whatever filter they may have used in that photo lingers in your mind. You see them with a bit more status, someone you’ve got to
The internet has its uses, but it’s the prime example of a double-edged sword. We need the internet for information and to stay connected to people, but it has the potential to be an addictive substance that leaves you high, botches your brain and leave you with a hard comedown to deal with. It’s a sensory addiction, an illusion that you’re fully connected with the world and before you know it, you’ll feel like you’re in an episode of Black Mirror.
I’m gonna use myself as an example. When I’m not working down the road, most of my time is spent on my laptop as I work on my first novel or write blog posts like this. The reason why is because it has all the tools I need, but it also can be a distracting thing if I go on YouTube. Because I spent way too much time on here and not socialising with people that matter to me, my writing suffered. I got this strange idea in my head that I need to be glued to the screen to ensure I complete my manuscript, but as you can imagine I lost my way very quickly.
Matt Haig explains in his bestseller Notes On A Nervous Planet about staying sane on the internet: “Understand that what seems real might not be.” That rule seems like the main goal to me, and Haig’s idea of practicing abstinence from social media is one that I want to exercise more and more of: “Resist whatever unhealthy excesses you feel drawn towards. Strengthen those muscles of restraint.”
Building further from my own lessons I’ve learned from writing, the best way for me to practice abstinence from social media whilst improving my writing is by living a little. Author James McCreet wrote in Writing Magazine about his own creative process: “The creativity is purely in the living: the writing is the snail’s mucus trail” He talks about the practice of reading book after book and trapping yourself in worlds that aren’t real, making people view the world through a lens that distorts their perceptions, kinda like social media. He builds on this by saying that writing is as its best when the writer is living fully, and ends by saying: “Sometimes you need to get lost to find the best direction.”
Now, some of you reading this may be a lot more resistant to the addiction of social media than I am, but you know that too much of anything is bad for you. The world deserves to be seen with clear eyes, with no filter in front of them warping them into an image that isn’t natural. I think we oughta disconnect for a period of time during the day, give our minds a break from the internet and clear our heads for the next day.
Lindsay Lanquist wrote an article about the benefits of curbing your internet usage that I feel could be useful if you feel hopelessly glued to your screens. I agree with a lot of what she says, such as how it can help you sleep and reduce anxiety within your life. This, combined with Haig and McCreet’s own exploits, point towards disconnecting for a little while and getting reacquainted with the real world. Because the pros outweigh the cons, and it stops me from feeling like I’m living in a Black Mirror episode.