The Anxiety Machine


noun, plural anxieties.

1. distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune:

He felt anxiety about the possible loss of his job.

2. earnest but tense desire; eagerness:

He had a keen anxiety to succeed in his work.

3. Psychiatry. a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.

I was watching this Wale interview where Nadeska Alexis (the interviewer) mentioned a Fairly Oddparents episode where because of something embarrassing that happened at school, Timmy wishes that he would have absolutely no feelings. The next day Timmy walks through life with zero emotions and instantaneously becomes the most popular person in school and town because people are amazed at his lack of empathy.

Now, I tell that quick story for a reason. That don't care=cool mentality follows our generation to present day where we all care and, can made to feel anxious in any given situation but for some reason, make it seem like we actually don't care about anything, and coast by life that way while in all actuality, we constantly worry about the issues that really plague our life but we refuse to share any of it in fear of seeming weak or just not cool.

Take the anxiety of being on a packed train without headphones or a book and having to look around and make uncomfortable eye contact with a bunch of people for example. Or when you post a picture with a new hairstyle and nobody mentions the hairstyle so you think to yourself “Does this mean it's trash?” Or replaying scenarios in your mind and wondering if you did one thing differently how would your life have played out and the probability of that decision putting you in a better place today. Or even the more broad anxieties of not being satisfied with your job, relationship, friendships and/or family life and not knowing how to change it so you allow those thoughts to eat at you. 

Or how about hating your job so much that you grow less and less able to smile through the “Good Mornings” when you first walk in so you just turn your attention to social media and follow people doing what you want to do. Seeing them enjoy their position doesn't necessarily elicit jealousy but rather anger that you're not there yet. What social media won't show you is that they aren't really enjoying the position as much as snapchat’s allowing them to show, and deep down they wish they were doing something completely different. 

We all lose at some point. There is always a point where the bullshit seems like it isn't worth it. Now if we all go through these emotions but then get on social media and see a best-of reel of our friends lives then that would only reinforce those ideas that we are in some way failing. People only post their “wins”, which I’m not here to say is wrong but our interpretation of it is. This creates a false sense of pressure to match or live up to the lives of people we almost know must be going through the everyday struggles of life like we are. Social media somehow convinces us this can't be true. Pre-social media, when your only interactions with people were real life interaction. An analogy I just thought of is if every artist made an album, then only compared that album to other artists’ greatest hits albums, the morale of the artist would suffer. When piling on the insecurities about our own appearances and lives that we have normally as humans, we end up as anxiety riddled people that feel that we’re living this monotonous life of struggle.

You gotta think of social media like this assembly line where we start off on the line with  pure intentions on what we want to do with what social media offers us (reconnect with old friends, share news, express ourselves), but then we come out on the other side with these strange and almost wicked desires. It becomes more of a mechanism to express our individual vanity.

But it's not all social media’s fault. And perhaps social media isn't the only part of this machine that is faulty (or perhaps working just as planned, depends on how you see it). In a capitalistic society that demands more and more of its citizens and tells us that we should desire a new iPhone, car, etc. every single year because if something’s a year old then it must be obsolete. The average person is just a hamster on the hamster wheel in this system. The plan is to keep people unsatisfied with their lives so they keep wanting more and have to spend more, but to spend more than they have to work more. You see? There's only so much one person can stand to work or so much one can desire before they decide everything they do have, is worthless (no matter how untrue that statement may actually be).

The night before Thanksgiving, one of my friends told me about how she agrees completely with what me and my brother say on social media when we speak on social issues but she feels that she can't speak up like we do so instead she says nothing. She apologized (for some reason) for it and I really appreciated her letting me know how she felt (after all that is more meaningful than a “like”) but it got me thinking. In the current political and social climate people should feel comfortable expressing themselves and their feelings in whatever way they know how especially when it's with words. Just because you can’t put something as plainly or as eloquently as someone on your timeline doesn't invalidate your feelings on the situation. Your perspective matters and when those who feel too afraid to speak up, do, then we can have real dialogue on how to progress as a people. You see what social media did there?

You see because we don't look within and decide if we're satisfied with life. We often look to the external world for this satisfaction (which is why it’ll never happen). Our generation has added social media to this list of places we go to to compare our lives to others and see if we match up well or if we're not doing so well etc. This makes it so that it’s not just celebrities we envy like other generations; it includes our peers as we grow more disconnected from them in terms of true interaction and only see this shiny version of themselves that they post on social media. Our happiness is far too comparative and having social media at our fingertips may be too much for us to handle some days.

The anxiety machine that is life is only amplified by social media and creates distorted ideas of what we think life should be. No to say social media doesn't have its benefits but the benefits offered are rarely the true reasons we obsess over it. Perhaps social media should be seen as just entertainment where we can dive in fully and enjoy it for small spurts but always come back to reality with the no connection to the world through the lens of social media. The problem today is, we never really disconnect from social media. Its easy accessibility has caused us to become far too attached to that world to the point where we're doing things in reality based on how they're going to look in the alternate reality that is social media. Now, our generation has already seen the effects of social media being introduced at a highschool or later age range. Now imagine what these kids behind us, that are aware of social media’s existence their whole lives, are going to be like. We may one day see a world where nobody faces their anxieties head on, rather we turn to the world we can more carefully curate. Where we can convince ourselves the false reality is our true reality. In my opinion, this is a world that’ll be more anxiety-ridden and “awkward” than we can even imagine. Now, my question to you is; Does social media really make you happy?