Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Beauty of Cyber Messiness

link to Robert Sorokanich's website surfaced every time I logged into Facebook today. It contained a mugshot of a man with cords dangling from his ears, a serene landscape muted in the distance.

"This is why you shouldn't take people's Facebook lives seriously," the headline read, playing on the ever-so-human tendency to see only what others show us, not what rests beneath the surface.

Of course I clicked the link. I read the text; I watched the video. Instead of finding the humor some of my friends mentioned in the comment space above the forwarded post, I found a lump in my throat.

I knew what they found funny. The man drove to an open road so he could take a picture of himself "running." He bragged about a sushi dinner with his girl, while a disenaged girlfriend sat 15 feet away and he ate a microwaveable dinner. After catching that same girlfriend cheating, he touted being single, posting a picture of himself with a handle of alcohol, smiling in the darkness. The camera then pans out and we find him sitting in his car alone, on the side of the road.

The video goes on, inviting us to watch our protagonist, Scott Thompson, unravel before our eyes.  Intoxicated by the challenge of molding his unsatisfying life into one others might envy, this man persists in rebranding his failures, in shrinking his viewing window to a minuscule pin point, zooming in on misleading details so no one else can see what rests outside the glass.

His demise is not only sad because his cyberself is nothing more than an empty, misleading shell; it is sad because it is driven by his perception of everyone else's happiness, by the world each of his friends manufacture to fulfill the ever-so-alluring milestone of success. Unable to distance himself from the egocentricism of his misery, Thompson is lightyears away from realizing the distinct possibility that perhaps his friends are not living quite as glamorous of a life as they suggest.

Because most of the time, none of us are.

No matter how fantastic or happy or successful a moment is, before that moment occurs, after that moment happens, or for a second within that moment, we have other moments--moments are just as real as the amazing one--that are ordinary, sad or disappointing. We have moments of struggle, moments of doubt, moments of fear, moments of insecurity, moments of stupidity, moments of moodiness, moments of being the very human being each of us were designed to be. Few people post about those moments, few people upload pictures of baggy eyes or botched plans or unchecked checklists. Most of us don't capture the precise second when our desires tumble out of our fingers and shatter against the floor.

But those in between moments are the meat inside the shell: the things that get us up, that press us forward, that teach us who we are and who we want to become. Those "weak" moments are our human moments, the moments that make the others ones seem so grand. It's easy to forget this. It's easy to start comparing. It's easy to "one up," to obsessively check for comments, or equate "likes" with support. It's easy because it is what human nature leads us to do. After all, illusions are much quicker to develop than real life is to fix.

Social media is the new form of "keeping up with Joneses," but the consequences of such an endeavor are far greater, and potentially far more devastating if we take it all too seriously. While Scott Thompson's behaviors were designed to be funny and were funny on some level, that is only because they aren't too far from the truth. It wasn't hard to imagine this satire playing out in real life, which is precisely why I got a lump in my throat when I watched.

While social media can be a fun place to chronicle memories, share ideas and find inspiration, it can also be a source of angst.  See, without our unscripted presence, without our uncensored existence, without our quirky, strange and flawed traits coloring all of the moments of our lives, we only exist in one dimension. And among hundreds of other flaws in my piggybank of quirks, I happen to be hopelessly greedy for full people. I want 3D or nothing.


  1. Great insights! I came across this piece this morning and it has a similar theme--sometimes social media drives us to do things for all the wrong reasons.

  2. You're link is spot on. A step beyond merely painting ourselves in a solely positive light, is using others to paint ourselves in an heroic one. Thank you for sharing.