Monday 5 May 2014

Blogging & The Social Media Delusion

There's nothing quite like a dose of heartbreak to force you to reassess every single aspect of your life, huh?

This past fortnight has been very strange territory for me.

I shan't elude to the finer details and apologies in advance for the unnecessary melodramatics, but it feels as though in a matter of seconds, before I could even really realise what was going on, a raging house fire has torn through my home, a home full of light and loveliness and beauty, and destroyed everything in reach of it's sickeningly all-consuming reach. 

And now I am left on my knees in a black smoking mass, a tiny handful of non-charred possessions cupped in my limp hand.

In the briefest of moments my life seems to have become so dramatically different, and it's almost impossible to get my head around.

But this post is not about love and loss - there are some things better left unwritten.

This post is about those small little items in my metaphorical hand, and the one loomingly dangerous thing in the other.


For as long as I've been aware of it's existence and impact on my life, the internet has always been my best friend. 

Despite the dark points in my teens where I discovered the nasty side of it, the internet has been such a positive force in my life, especially so in the past two years or so, where I've been able to curate and cultivate a future out of it.

But as I mentioned, after losing not just a partner, but such a massively large and important part of my life, I've almost been forced to recollect myself and reassess what's left of my life, only to have the harrowing realisation that the next biggest thing I had in my life after him is... well, this.

And I cannot tell you how much that fucked me up to realise.

' But sure, it's your hobby! It's what you enjoy doing, that only makes sense? '

Of course, it's another important part of my life, something I want to go on to hopefully make a career out of, but that's not the problem. The problem is what this hobby in itself is comprised of - The Internet. Blogging. Social Media.

In one moment of heartbreak-fuelled revelation, I realised several terrible things at once, that all stemmed down to one main truth:

I had no idea who I was any more. 

I looked at my personal accounts on Twitter and Instagram, neither had been used for quite some time, yet my separate Scarphelia accounts were booming with activity. I'd created secondary accounts for everything blog-wise so I could make a clear distinction between my reality and my online life... But the opposite has happened.

It's as though I'd completely kissed goodbye to my personal identity and I'd become this internet-based caricature of myself. Without even realising it, I'd surrendered my real life to dedicate myself to this cyber life.

I thought about my real life, then.

With no-one at Uni who I really get on with anymore, and being surrounded by negative people who I'd given up trying to please, I realised my only friends were online, other bloggers. Admittedly I'd met the majority of them in real life too, but was that healthy? And it's all well and good strangers around the world saying they like your top on Instagram, but what happens when you shut that computer screen and walk outside and realise that you actually have no-one?

I thought about Uni, then.

I'd just so boldly declared that I was making the brash decision to take the back seat with my studies and focus all my efforts and passion into making my blog a career.... Had I really become that deluded at my own 'success'? My blog has little over 500 followers and I'm acting like I'm about to take over the world, when there are bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers who still have to work and study...

I thought about my blog, then.

And I felt a genuine, head-in-hands sense of despair at how deluded I'd been to think that I was anything above average, a horrible realisation that this whole future I'd been so dead set on was little more than a glorious pipe dream, and I was just one among all the other thousands of better blogs out there, acting like the first and only person to have done what I do.

It was like experiencing this dazzling fall from a grace of which I'd never even had in the first place.

And as I spent those days bed-ridden in sorrow, constantly refreshing my notifications across various channels searching for some form of validation, waves of my suddenly-realised inadequacy flooding my veins and this huge sickening cloud of OH SWEET GOD WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE swirling above me, I pretty much hit breaking point.

And that's when, by chance, I saw this video:

And that's when I truly understood what social media does a person, the effect that internet success has on the mind, and the dangers it poses for bloggers in particular.

When it comes down to it, with all internet-based things, blogging deludes your sense of reality.

And there's no two ways about that.

Whether you begin to consider your life differently based on which bits you choose to give away, whether you think you're the next big thing or you consider yourself as worthless in comparison to others, or even something as small as you convince yourself you look as good in reality as you do with a Valencia filter over your hashtag selfie - social media polarises the mind in a very subtle and gradual way, until sometimes we can become completely out of touch with the offline world.

I then remembered a post from Lily Melrose which had struck a very resonate chord with me when I first read it. 

"Honestly, I did genuinely enjoy all the things I've done this year. But I could never shake the feeling that I didn't deserve it, and I wasn't good enough to be in that position. I blindly went into blogging 4 years ago and never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine living the life I do now. What I'm trying to say that its you can still be really insecure or unhappy with yourself despite being successful. I've always felt like one day people would realise how much of a phony I was and it'd all come crashing down around me. In my head, I see that person I used to be. That awkward country teenager, who didn't really have any friends and certainly wasn't looked up to or cared about, not the person I've grown into since starting this journey as a blogger."

And she totally hit the nail on the head.

Blogging, for all the wonderful opportunities it can create - in essence, it's a dehumanising thing. 

Suddenly caring about your follower count or hit count, getting annoyed and upset if you don't get enough comments or #Foodstagramming your dinner at the table while your date sits there awkwardly waiting for you to be done picking a filter - that's just not what life is fucking about man.

And at that moment, I saw all of which I'd become so desensitized to.

The effect of over-immersion in social media causes people to think that if something is not worth posting about, then it's not worth anything.

And with tears in my eyes I began to make a list of all the things I had to look forward to in the future, and I found myself filling the page, almost in shock. How could I have possibly overlooked all these wonderful things with wonderful people I had coming up? Of course I had friends, I had Flossie, Sophie, Harry, TWC, the band - so many amazing people that my mind was just forgetting.

There is so much good in my life outside of the internet, but the selective-story process of blogging forces me to consider my offline life irrelevant if it's not to do with my online life.

I went back onto my old instagram and genuinely shed a tear at  how much things had changed. How much lonelier I felt now, when I was surrounded by more people than ever. I made the decision then that I was going to re-use that instagram, and keep it for myself. No hashtags, no selfies, not caring if anyone even sees them. Just a montage of pictures of my real life, my real friends, a collage of all the things which make me happy.

And overall I guess I felt lucky to have had this breakdown/lesson/realisation now.

I can only imagine that this feeling gets progressively worse the more successful you become, and I only hope that this blog will grow into something bigger, so it's more important than ever to have constant reality checks.

And as a new resolution to myself, I'm going to take a step back. Every time I feel the need to take my phone out I'm going to stop, really think about what I was about to do on there, if I really needed to do it, and what I could do or say instead.

I think this whole ordeal has put my future into perspective too.

I don't want to be a top blogger. 

I don't think I could ever be happy like that, knowing how the dark wanderings of my mind would always taunt me with comparisons, jibes of inadequacy and the alienating effect it would have on my perception of reality.

Writing and creating are the most important things in my life. Not blogging. I want to be a writer, a traveler, an adventurer and a liver of life, who happens to showcase this and tell their story via a blog.

And I can't help but think, perhaps if I'd have had this realisation a little sooner, if I hadn't let this all get to me, if I'd stopped constantly thinking and viewing the world in blog posts... then maybe I could've held onto him too. 

But hey, the universe has a funny way of working things out, and I am a firm believer in what will be will be. All I can do in the meantime is unplug once in a while, feel the cool breeze of reality and vitality on my cheeks, keep a firm watch over what goes on in this messed up head of mine, and one day time will be kind to us all.


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