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Musings of a lowly pilgrim
Life lessons | Mental Health | Social Issues | Stewards of our planet

The Scourge of (Anti-)Social Media

June 23, 2018

Life as supposed to improve with technology but I think we all know that things have careened out of control. The repercussions are vast and varied and will continue to reveal themselves as we spiral into the unknown. From robbing the earth of rare metals to build our cell phones to the enormous toll social media is taking on our ability to communicate, the list goes on and on and on………

Mental health problems have reached epidemic proportions. We have solutions for everything at our fingertips, but who can focus long enough on any one issue to make any progress. Our children learn to use computers at school and, in this society where we don’t know our neighbours, they need cell phones to keep in touch with their parents for safety reasons. I am ashamed to say that my phone comes everywhere with me. My excuse is that I use it as a pedometer. How ridiculous is that? Why can’t I go for a swim or a hike and leave the darn thing behind? We are prisoners of our own creations.

Papaver orientale ‘Royal Wedding’

Suicide is running rampant. According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates have increased by 60% in the last 45 years and is now among the three leading causes of death in both males and females between the ages of 15 and 44. Within the past few months, several “highly successful” people have taken their own lives; the DJ Avicii, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. It is my opinion that social media has been the vehicle by which we have created a monster, one that presents to the world a false reality. We have news twenty-four hours a day, at our fingertips. We have FaceBook, where everyone likes to parade their successes, Instagram to show off our best parts, Reality TV where we can watch the so-called lives of the rich and famous, or soon to be. Youtube, Ozone, Twitter, Tumbler, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc, etc, etc. We display our lives through all of these vehicles, yet, as I move into my new apartment, struggling with furniture and boxes, people walk past me as if I’m not there. They don’t hold the door open, they don’t speak. They look at their screens.

How many people sit alone, hiding their pain in the gloom of their own mind? As you may know, I am in the process of rebuilding my life and have been collecting my boxes of belongings I had stored with some of my children. I am slowly unpacking and going through a mountain of papers, some of which I haven’t looked at since the death of my husband. Greg used to write and I had put all of his writings aside for another day. They are all together in one place, so imagine my shock when I found two pages layered in between some photos and other mementoes. I had never seen them before today and I don’t know how they got there but, as I read them, I was struck by how tender and poignant the words were. There was no rage, no bitterness, just a peaceful resignation. Oh, if he had only spoken those words to me. There is no date, but it is clear he was close to the end, looking forward to a better day, a day of release. No more living in this prison of flesh, he truly felt the most logical action was to shed the body that held him back from eternity. I am not glorifying suicide. There is no glory in it. But for some who take that final step, they have no regrets. I am assuming Greg was not alone in his distorted thought process. He surmised his purpose on this earth had come to an end. How desperately tragic. I, too, wonder what my purpose is, now that he is gone and my children are grown. Sometimes I coil myself up in a chair and weep, but I know it will pass. I will live another day and I will find a reason to continue on. I also know I am far from alone in this. We all have these moments. Every. last. one. of. us. It is only when you climb so far back into yourself and close the door that you are blind to the plight of humanity. I don’t have the solution for those who can’t find their way back, but what a better world it would be if we could reach out instead of disengaging.

Dandelion gone to seed

Is it any wonder, though, that more and more people feel isolated and are losing hope? We present an image of ourselves that we create to impress others and we absorb similar false representations from the millions of others doing likewise. I’m not sure when this ideology of success came about. I suspect, in this particular cycle (the ebb and flow of our planet since the dawn of time), it was after the second world war when North America created life in the suburbs with a car, a television and “keeping up with the Joneses”. And Hollywood. If there is one place I would point my finger at to blame for the degeneration of the values of relationships, marriage and family, it would be there. Where did girls learn they need to look like Marilyn Monroe and where did boys learn to judge girls so? Where did men learn to be faithless and women to give as good as they got? Where?

What we have become

It breaks my heart when I see young people struggling with their appearance or false expectations, all because of what they are witnessing around them. Don’t misunderstand me, false values have always been around, as have mental health issues, but the advent of mass media has spread it like the plague. And it continues to contaminate our whole world. And don’t get me started on how easy it is to be rude to people you don’t have to look at in the eye.

Social media can be a useful tool if used correctly. It is a wonderful way of sharing pictures with family living great distances away. It is excellent for sharing valuable information and when trying to contact people. It is terrific for all sorts of business dealings. But it is not accurate in presenting real life and will never replace human contact.

Iris

We are so busy showing our cosmetic selves to all that we have created a misleading portrait of what life truly is. Those of us who feel we don’t measure up, (which is the majority of us, by the way) struggle to try to fit in, but of course, no one can because it isn’t real. We build walls around ourselves and don’t let others in. If we want to survive we need to break down the walls, all of them. And I’m not talking about being nasty. I mean we need to stop pretending and show each other who we really are. We need to talk and share our feelings. We need to have compassion for others. We need to get back to our roots and become what we were created to be, caring human beings full of goodwill towards all men. Yeah, that is a scripture, but it is also a credo of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and any other belief system or philosophy. So, no matter what your fundamental belief is, charity is a large part of it. Stop looking at your screens and reach out a hand to someone, someone in your neighbourhood, someone you know who could use one. Or, if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to tell someone. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Every one of us struggles at some point, no matter how successful we appear to be. It might surprise you just how much you have in common with that person covered in tattoos, or the guy with the Porche, or the elderly lady next door (that’s me 😊). Above all the creatures, we were given the gift of speech. We need to use it. Ignorance builds barriers, knowledge and understanding breaks them down.

No matter what your mental state is, there is help somewhere. Talk to a friend, your doctor, school counsellor, Jesus, Allah, your yoga instructor, the lunch lady, the bartender, your mom, your partner. If you were having heart palpitations you would see a doctor. Your mind needs the same care. No matter how bad things appear to be, there is help somewhere. Life is worth living. I am grateful I didn’t succeed in my suicide attempts and I will be forever sorry that my husband did.

 

Thinking About Suicide?

Find Local Crisis Centres

In the United States:

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

United Kingdom Suicide Hotlines

Samaritans UK & ROI 
National
Contact by: Face to Face  – Phone  – Letter:  – E-mail: 
Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
Website: samaritans.org
E-mail Helpline: jo@samaritans.org
24 Hour service: 

 


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