I started the research for a book I am writing on how the external world affects our mental health. I wanted to acknowledge the downsides of social media, but to argue that far from being a force for ill,it offers a safe place where the insanities of life elsewhere can be processed and articulated.
Even the internet activist and former Google employee Wael Ghonim – one of the initiators of the Arab spring and one-time poster boy for internet-inspired revolution – who once saw social media as a social cure – now saw it as a negative force. In his eyes it went from being a place for crowdsourcing and sharing, during the initial wave of demonstrations against the Egyptian regime, to a fractious battleground full of “echo chambers” and “hate speech”: “The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Ghonim saw social media polarising people into angry opposing camps – army supporters and Islamists – leaving centrists such as himself stuck in the middle, powerless.
The evidence is growing that social media can be a health risk, particularly for young people who now have all the normal pressures of youth (fitting in, looking good, being popular) being exploited by the multibillion-dollar companies that own the platforms they spend much of their lives on.
Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.”
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
I have always taught you to be your own man and to think for yourselves. Unfortunately, America is becoming a country of sheep. Everyone is busy keeping up with the Jones. Everyone copies the latest fads being religiously followed by everyone else. Each is afraid to be different from the others for fear of ridicule.
How ironic. In a country where individualism is touted as the ideal, peer pressure, marketing, and social forces run counter to that ideal, and those who are different are ostracized and rejected.
But, remember, “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.” Ignore the small-minded. They are insecure and feel good about themselves only by putting others down. They are nothing. Give them pity, and no more. They are not worth your time.
Instead, focus on what you love and on pursuing your dreams. You will never have to work a day in your life if you do what you love. I have been blessed in that sense. I have enjoyed my work and, for the most part, the people with whom I work. I wish the same for you.
Jonas Salk said, “I have had dreams and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” Dare to chase your dreams, my boys. The world is full of timid people who live forgetful lives. Be not like them. Be like Hunter Thompson.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!
Hunter S. Thompson
Get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other junk. Those “friends” and “followers” aren’t really your friends. They won’t recognize you from Adam if you should ever bump into them on the streets. They neither know your nor care about you and will never lose sleep over your everyday struggles. Let them be. Leave them to their virtual worlds.
Live life. Go outside. Meet people. Make friends. Give a hand to someone in need. Live! You’ll be glad you did. Your life will mean something and will be worth retelling.
All my love, always,