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There’s an internet meme floating around that has a saying on it along the lines of “stress is caused by giving a damn.” The meme probably says a different word but you get the point. This is a lovely sentiment and in the fashion of a virtual needlepoint, it has been mounted on many virtual walls, right next to a plaque that says “bless this Facebook mess.” The problem with this saying is people who use it always sound like they’re trying to convince themselves rather than anyone who would disagree with them.
Stress is caused by caring about something, in both a positive and negative way, and people who try to convince themselves they don’t care about things are usually the most tightly wound. It’s easier said than done to let go of the things that are draining you, it’s easier said than done to be relaxed and take everything in stride. Most of us have spent a significant portion of our lives trying to emulate his holiness The Dude because he seemed to know true happiness while having very little. He was unconcerned with the trappings of life and focused more on the simplicity. Still, he lacked ambition and for some of us, the idea of floating through our existence is as stressing as anything else. There can never be a formula for all of us because nothing else works that way.
The internet has created an interesting paradox. With the various types of social media, we are exposed very fully to each other’s bizarre compulsions and neurosis with almost no barrier. People are often more relaxed about saying something over the internet than they would ever be saying it in public or provide more information about themselves than they normally would if they just met someone. We can see where we each give a damn, we can see what we obsess about, we can see what we’re too concerned with. Haven’t you ever seen someone you didn’t know that well on Facebook change their picture to an awful duck-faced, pouty self-portrait or a shot of them flexing in the gym mirror and realize they must have some serious self-esteem problems? Then the minute after you judge them, you realize you’re way too judgmental? I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Nothing we do on the internet is much different than what we do in real life but online it reads like data rather than a personality.
“The internet has created an interesting paradox. With the various types of social media, we are exposed very fully to each other’s bizarre compulsions and neurosis with almost no barrier.”
So why do we spend so much time focused on creating an image for other people to judge us? To really release any drain on our own energy, the only thing we should do is stop caring about what people think. Easier said than done, of course. There’s a lot of social anxiety among us and with the emergence of things like “troll culture,” we can feel more judged than ever. The truth is the digital world and the real world are very similar. The digital world remains more permanent but the actions people engage in tend to be the same. Trolls? Just a person we’d call a bully or a downer, someone who just makes it their job to hate on things, push other people’s buttons. Camera whores? Let the new-age Narcissus starve at their own reflection. And as for those of us who find ourselves judging people unfairly based on simple things like profile pictures? Well, we can just go fuck ourselves.