Have you ever wondered how different your life would be if you weren't living in this generation? This generation of Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr and all those other time and soul-sucking sites? Lately I've been feeling as if this online world has an unhealthy hold on me. The excruciating minutia of my friends' daily existence...their breakfasts, and workouts, and misspelled Starbucks cups...I can't take it. I miss seeing life outside of a computer screen. It's just so damned addictive, though. I keep my phone plugged in and tucked under a pillow, so as not to get tempted by the light of a message in the darkness of night. But regardless, I still feel the pull. Knowing that my phone is so close, and that there could be some up and coming info waiting for me...I can't stay away.
I think that the worst thing about having instant access to a world of information is the loss of my innocence. For years, I prided myself on not watching the news. I rarely read a newspaper. Every now and again I'd stumble across a news program while I was at the gym and I would think, "No wonder people think the world is such an awful place." But then I would quickly regroup and remind myself that good news doesn't sell papers. No news network is going to stay in business telling stories about random acts of kindness. Violence sells.
As lovely as it is to stay connected to friends and family who are not within easy travel distance, the frustrations and smallness of online life outweighs the good. Web anonymity brings out the most dreadful side of human nature. Give someone a voice without a face, and chaos ensues. I've seen the most rational, easygoing people drawn into childish online spats in the blink of an eye...because it's a strange contradiction. Nothing feels real when you're viewing it online...yet at the same time, everything seems to feel almost hyper-real. There's a certain nakedness that we allow ourselves to reveal when we're behind a screen. I would never begin a chat with a stranger with my political leanings, my stance on abortion, or my religious beliefs. In real life, this would be unseemly and provocative. Unfortunately, this mindset does not extend to the online world. I know more about the inner workings of these strangers in my feed than I know about my own family.
Several years ago, I was talking to the parent of a young man who was confined to a wheelchair due to his illness. We were discussing how difficult it was to view things from his perspective-this perspective being his own suffering. I blurted out, "His world is just so small." And it was. Pain narrows life down into a tiny little box. You don't see the bigger picture; your perception is completely different than someone standing outside of that box. And that is sometimes how I feel about this world we live in now, where we can connect to someone with the click of a button, but not touch them or sense the true meaning behind their words. We can see every landscape on every continent without breathing its air, or feeling the ground beneath our feet. The internet has made our world both infinitely larger, and placed us in our own tiny little boxes, all at the same time.