Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Paradoxical Isolation of Social Media

Nothing is more horrific, more shattering, and more soul-destroying than isolation.

Put a human being in solitary confinement, and you shatter their psyche.  We need one another, need unfiltered relationship, need the life-giving character of human-to-human exchange.  It is how we were made.  It is our nature.

Where solitary confinement is used, it leaves us gibbering and broken.  It's a cruel thing, a punishment, not a penitence.  It serves no purpose other than to inflict soul-harm.  It does not restore.  It does not reclaim and heal.

The solitary soul is trapped seeing only itself, trapped in a howling, echoing darkness.

And I wonder how that's mirrored the strange arc of our selfish culture, and the darkest shadow influence of social media and internet culture.

Here, a medium that is designed to connect.  It can.  It can allow us to open ourselves, to encounter new music and new cultures, new forms of life and being.  It can be a place of delight and discovery, of ever deepening understanding.  It can add richness to our relationships.

But it can have the inverse effect.  How?

Because it can also enable us to see only that which we wish to see.  Our screens can show us only those parts of being that are already a part of us, the inorganic and desire-driven projections of our yearnings.  We filter out those things we do not wish to see, aided by marketing algorithms and the semi-sentient manipulations of our selected inputs.

It can become the echo chamber of our grasping, drilled down through the miracle of marketing to our granular particularity as a microdemographic.   That mediated reality becomes the reflective surface of our own hungers and desires, carefully calibrated to filter out even the faintest whisper of noise from the outside.

It can supplant and replace our organic connection to being, a cuckoo chick growing fat in the nest of our soul.  It can become a compulsion, darkly obsessive by design, calling us into patterns of repetitive behavior, a panther circling endlessly in a cage, a prisoner rocking and muttering in their cell.

Trapped, alone, in a virtual world that is nothing more and nothing less than exactly what we want.