The Digital Age and Human Intimacy

Throughout the era of evolving technology, we have crafted fortuities that were utterly unattainable only decades ago. For the first time in human existence, anyone across the entire planet can connect in an instant. We can text or email to communicate through words, we can make calls for a more personal connection, and we can even video chat to watch each other’s expressions in real-time. But perhaps the most infamous route of connection is the double-edged sword that is social media. By developing these social networks of connection, we’ve created a hub for existing and sharing as the self-designed, “perfect” versions of ourselves that we long to be. Here, we can name ourselves whatever we please, post pictures and comments articulate to any facade we wish, and share these things at any moment of every day with the promise of an attentive audience. It is, quite literally, a virtual wonderland where we have the power to control the way others perceive us.

Destructive Comparison

While initially developed to foster distant connections and bring like minds together, social media has opened the doors to a rapid diminishing of self-worth throughout our society. A virtual profile is, in essence, a highlight reel of exceptional moments, and as we scroll through endless reels of perfection, it’s easy to forget that behind each highlight lies hundreds of lowlights that have been polished out of the public eye. Yet the longer this passive observation draws on, scrolling through hundreds of images lacking a single flaw, it becomes near impossible to refrain from harsh self-critique. Comparing our daily lives, looks, and actions to the unattainable transcendence we view on our devices becomes inevitable.

Utilizing techniques of mindfulness conscious awareness of how particular things affect our psychological well-being can allow us to build a buffer between ourselves and the screen. This buffer will give us time to acknowledge the illegitimacy of comparing our everyday selves with these impeccably polished highlight reels. Another nuance to remember when criticizing your self-worth over the immeasurable beauty of a virtual photo is that whoever is on the other side of that photograph more than likely perceives themself in the very same insecure nature that you do.

Conversation vs. Connection

Shelly Turkle, MIT Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology, has remained an opinionated voice of reason around technology’s social ethics since the origin of social media. In a 2012 New York Times publication titled, “Flight from Conversation,” Turkle exposes the underlying truth behind why humans have jumped at the opportunity to virtually connect from a distance rather than immerse ourselves in authentic conversation. From behind the screens of our devices, we hold full control over who we are. More accurately, how people perceive us takes away the fear of vulnerability brought about through real, intimate relationships. Turkle regards that “Human relationships are rich: messy and demanding, but the only way to reap the utter satisfaction desired in a relationship is to return to the way which could now be called old fashioned.”

In a modern society of infinite connection, we now sacrifice real human conversation for technological blips of scarce interaction. The virtual link will never equate with the deep, personal connection fostered by human empathy in real conversation. We have lost the piece of humanity that keeps us united, that keeps us growing, learning, and changing. We’ve lost each other. However, by pushing our fears aside and immersing ourselves in conversation, we can reclaim our uniquely human ability to create profound ideas as a collective of like minds and grow as individuals through the flourishing bonds we forge with others.

Evolutionary Need to be Liked

Have you ever wondered why it hurts so deeply when you feel humiliated in public or why it’s easier to express yourself from the comfortable distance of social media? Well, the human brain neurologically recognizes social embarrassment in the same fashion as physical pain, so it is more than fair to be afraid to leave the comfort of hiding behind a device. With social media at our fingertips, humanity has become socially satisfied with this idea that we are “liked” and we are “heard,” but are shielded from the physical pain of social failure. We fear the vulnerability that comes from unedited moments so vastly that we’ve forgotten why we need them at all.

Our minds have tricked us into believing we are happy because we have not felt the agony that comes with social denial. But while this isolated tradeoff between vulnerable human relationships and ingenuine distanced-connection does remove us from feeling pain, it is not true happiness that we feel; it is nothing. We feel comfortable holding ourselves in this space of numb isolation because, while it’s not necessarily pleasant, at least it’s a pain that we are the masters of. We are content with this feeling of nothing because allowing ourselves the opportunity to experience real heartache would hurt in an unfamiliar manner. It is not so much that we’ve stopped caring about intimate human conversation altogether; we’ve simply forgotten how it feels.

Revealing Ourselves Through Intimate Conversation

Through risking our vulnerability and accepting the possibility of social hiccups, we can begin to eradicate the unnatural polish of distant connection that keeps us from revealing who we are. For if we open ourselves up to social failure, we may cultivate a safe space, free of judgment, where those around us feel comfortable revealing their authentic selves as well. With time, expressing our unrefined selves, highlights, lowlights, and all, can help us find a healthy balance between innovation and our human selves, separate from the technology.

We’ve devoted decades to revolutionizing modern technology unto its sheer elegance, but now it’s time we vindicate our relationship with it. We must redefine our society as one comprised of an eclectic people who have deliberately chosen to revert to intimate human conversation. We shall go forth into this new day to reintroduce ourselves to those around us without the filter of editing who we are. The truth is, as Turkle remarks, “it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate, stutter, and go silent, that we often reveal ourselves to one and other.”

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is no easy task. With the endless opportunity to connect virtually, it takes time, acceptance, and real guts to open yourself up to intimate conversation. Beginning upon the path of building inner-strength can be quite intimidating when confronted alone. Our passionate team at Achieve Concierge understands the many obstacles that can make reaching self-confidence seem like an unattainable goal. While alcohol, substance use, and many other psychological disorders can hinder your path to wellness, we are here to help you reach the real strength that lies within. Merely deciding to embark upon the path toward improving your psychological health is an incredible feat of inner-strength in itself! Seeking treatment is never a sign of weakness; it is a sign that you care for yourself enough to push through fear and work through obstacles for the sake of your wellbeing. Here at Achieve Concierge, we offer individual, group, and in-home therapy so you can choose the route of recovery best fit for you. For more information, call us at (619) 393-5871.

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