The eye of the beholder

Yesterday I wrote about perception. Today, it's social media. I've stopped shopping with my friends... The question, "How do I look?" is simply far too heavy for me to shoulder, these days. The same applies to "What do you think?" I've stopped asking other people the same question, because I've realised that nobody wants honesty in these situations.

Our online disciples are who control us now... Regardless as to how committed they are or whether we have even met them. They can range from self-reflective obsessives to strangely disinterested Judas-types. They are still disciples, though. They are part of that number - the number that tells you how much you are worth. If you aren't worth following, then what are you worth? Is Justin Bieber worth more than me? Is Katie Hopkins? Occasionally I consider 'consciously uncoupling' with social media; it gives us too much of a stake in our own brand, but in doing so it also leeches away at our stores of humility, and we become the swallowers of our own snake-oil.

How did all of this start? Perhaps it was when phones became portable. I remember a time when mobile phones where bricks, literally capable of caving someone's head in; a useful weapon to have, and a thus a slightly less sophisticated Swiss-army style saviour if your car broke down in a remote hillbilly-infested backwater. Personally, I've found that having a mobile phone has turned me into an infant.

I cannot sit at a bus stop without calling or texting someone, or angrily tweeting about how my bus is late. I am incapable of travelling without my headphones plugged into my ears. It's an attention-hoover... It hooves attention. I give people disdainful looks as though they're interrupting something important when they try to talk to me, somehow so indignant that it becomes totally irrelevant that I've listened to this song a thousand times before.

How did I turn into someone who thinks that human interaction is an inconvenience that I'd rather avoid? I cannot see a beautiful sunset without taking a photo to 'share' that experience with people on the other side of the world that I've never met, and more than an hour not checking that shiny little rectangular face for messages sends me into nervous paroxysms... Don't even get me started on the low-battery-and-no-charger-scenario; my palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.

The same infantilisation has happened to my friends, but more noticeably and over a longer period of time, I think. I have friends who look like lumberjacks, but if faced with a week fending for themselves in the wild they would probably die of something relatively simple, like an badly infected mosquito bite. They might look a little emaciated towards the end, but given that in all likelihood they'll also have a bangin' suntan too, they'll get more likes than usual if they share that selfie on Instagram. The camera loves structured torsos, and prime ribs...

So, what happens when the eye of the beholder is a camera lens? The degree of separation between flat image, and eye-to-thought interpretation is an important one. The camera never lies, right? (Unless you hold it at a specific angle and make sure the light hits your face in a flattering way. Duckface.) I understand... Everyone wants to look beautiful. And by extension, loved. If we agree with the statement that the camera always speaks the truth, I suppose what it's really saying is that 99% of us are intrinsically ugly (or that societal maxims teach us that we are. The damage that the airbrushed model generic inflicts on adults, let alone youngsters, is far more insidious and deep seated than we think). Should we just accept that that is the way it is? When I argue with myself over these things, (usually at some godawful early hour in the morning,) I always seem to come back around to the idea of personality and, strangely enough, The Twits.

I always think that if someone is a good person, it shows, and vice-versa if the opposite is true, but maybe I'm being naive. It's getting harder for me to tell. I see the best in people and I know one day it will be my downfall. Thinking about pictures on peoples' social media profiles, most of them are either very contrived or boozy nights out. Bad behaviour is encouraged in order to seem edgy, or to make us stand out from the aeons of peons. Isn't being polite and considerate now more of a rarity than being "edgy"? Isn't edginess now a trend, rather than a personality trait? In the age of comparisons, the people who aspire too hard to be more always come off worse. It's utopianism, in its most destructive form.

At the end of the day I probably wouldn't die without my phone. I would have a lot more time for myself, I'd be able to read more, and go kite-flying, make things out of papier-mâché and learn to surf. But here's the problem... Would it make me selfish, not making plans with or meeting my friends?

I've stopped asking that question, too, although not for any particular reason other than that I don't want to appear to be self-absorbed. This kind of paradox tells us something quite revealing about the modern age.

My friends could probably do with a break from the constant updates... When will we allow ourselves to shut up and give ourselves, and each other, space or peace? Remember: If you aren't 'reachable' right now, you are anti-social and a bad person.