Curating our images online, knowing that we haven’t been entirely truthful about ourselves means we cannot find a satisfying identity in our comrades’ acceptance of who we say we are. In our hearts, we know it’s not really us they are embracing. We have dressed up a mannequin to look like a better version of ourselves. It is this that we have pushed forward into their arms, while we stand behind it, unknown, sorrowful and unloved. We have distanced ourselves from others by our very eagerness to be included.
What’s worse, behind all our defensive assertions is a terrible knowledge: we know, from our own uncertainty and distrust online, that our companions, in their turn, mistrust us, our very existence. They know we can claim to be whatever we want, whatever we aspire to. And we know they know we have lied to them.
So, our truly shared knowledge and experience online, what we all really have in common, is a mutual distrust dressed up in a pantomime of acceptance.
And there is always the chance , somehow, that we won’t get away with it, that, at least in some existential way, we will be unmasked, shamed, reviled as liars and cheats – distrusted and thus disbelieved in anything we say in future.
This is the most abject of humblings at the best of times, but online it is truly terrifying, because in a world without substance, you only exist in your verbal communications. Being disbelieved, being banished from your trust-circle means you are nothing.
If you spend your time on social media, rely on it for the validation, predicate your identity on your online presence, this puts you in a worse position than the most isolated and lonely people in the real world. Theycan fall back on their sense of animal self, however unpleasant, however greasy, overweight and farty, and on the rhythm and habits of their physical existence. Their loathed and sagging, stubbly, hungover reflection in the mirror is still their own, themselves.
But, online, being ignored or disbelieved or ghosted extinguishes the soul.
You become a doubtful phantom, prey to great storms of soul-destroying self-doubt.
Because we are herd or pack animals. We need company. Physically present, warm, human companions. We are not solitary creatures who rely only on our own singular, changeable fancies to prove we exist. We need and crave recognition and reinforcement of our selves to be sure that we are truly present, that we truly exist.