One of the saddest actions to ever take is to slowly scroll down the page of a social network. Although I realize this topic is an everlasting cry which does not surprise anyone any more, I myself practice this activity of loneliness too often to resist from writing about it.
Kind of a pathetic image –scrolling down the page of the social network staring at the photos of some nice yet too vulgar bodies and me, pushing the buttons intended to virtually express my feeling towards the exposed image. Such factors like publicity and much faster sharing of information which are supposed to bond people together and make them closer, treacherously like a boomerang come back, paradoxically, bringing nothing but loneliness and separation.
If we continue with this popular game of adapting the famous cogito, ergo, sum to the times of contemporaries, I am public, therefore, I exist is what we would say about our age. Consider that the absence of an account in the most popular social networks is seen even as a conceited position, the privilege of hipsters. That is why we are all in the same game and the rules include observing each other, evaluating, comparing, and giving remarks. Even if you set the serious face and work hard on convincing others that the social network for you is only for events, old mates and other publicly justifiable reasons it would be too difficult to make somebody believe that – humans are usually less likely to be that rational, they rather secretly stare at each other, observe and compare. Add that nobody wants to be an excluded loser in the game of social networks. It can get even more dramatic. Rephrasing Pierre Bourdieu in his “Pascalian Meditations“, the worst battle lost is the one which provides the recognition in the community, becoming a recognized member of a society. That is the invisible and the most fatal battle we are all in, according to the thoughts of Pierre Bourdieu.
But what does the loneliness have to do here? Loneliness is connected to our changing habits of communication; it is connected to overwhelming numbers of consumption. Isn’t the social networking just another word for consuming people, consuming our relationships? We can consider it as a virtual form of cannibalism – instead of blood we consume emotions. So despite my zealous efforts to avoid this fatal moralizing tone, it is probably true that social networks cannot exist without that virtual loneliness like the flesh cannot be without bones.
Sable Dickens accurately calls this situation a „digital loneliness“. Let‘s add the assumption made by Alain Watts revealing the perception of self as a „skin encapsulated ego“, a consciousness covered by the bag of skin. Taking into account the everyday “skin encapsulated” cell of every human being placed in the virtual contemporary jail, the possibilities of any kind of sense of community and intimacy become sadly complicated and that damned sense of isolation is born. Then we say we delete our accounts “to distance ourselves a bit from virtual life“, because we need to “have some time only with ourselves“ and then after all we come back to those networks again because “you see, nowadays it is all about that, it is simply much easier with social networking“.
And yet it would be naive to believe that the influence of social networks is going to decrease while the traditional live communication will increase. Considering that the virtual communities are only expanding, it is probably worthless to keep turning to the past without considering the significant role of the virtual life. Instead, other more important questions should be asked. How a human being with all the walls around which were built and he himself built, can save the sense of belonging to the community? How can a human being keep the feeling of community in the game of social networking which itself provoke the sense of isolation? How can a human being sadly scrolling down that page full of illusionary lives of others still satisfy his desperate need of being close with somebody? Or maybe the “disconnect” button is still a good idea?