Lauding Unhealthy Adaptations
The Strange Twist of Social Media
BY: Troy Murphy | July 2018
I can’t help it, I’m an internet junkie. I join groups, follow pages, and read the tweets about the psychology of living—a passion. During my early adventures in cyber relations, I felt the need to correct gross errors. I quickly learned these “I don’t agree” comments often incited emotional, and sometimes venomous attacks. A decade later, I’ve learned to leave uninvited comments to myself. Although unhealthy adaptations too life are routinely touted as psychological breakthroughs, often the poster isn’t seeking guidance, only support. Life is powerful, inciting explosions of emotions that we must channel into effective responses. Our reaction to experience, the channeling of emotion, is our adaptation to life. Some adaptations are effective, others are not. The internet has expanded the game. We can twist our ego-defending mechanisms that justify failed connections into psychological prose, giving others advice on how life should be lived. The adoring crowd spur on the maladaptations, laud our errors, and provide the us the protective barrier of superficial acceptance.
Learning from the internet, and especially social networks, requires a lot of skepticism. Anyone can publish a site, author a book, and give advice with a tone of expertness. A page may adopt a professional name utilizing powerful buzz words like: Psychology, Science, or Financial Planner. But a quick glance of the content suggests something much different. With some foundational knowledge, we can identify the hollow content and strained interactions with some of the commenters. Unfortunately, many don’t have the background, and are desperately seeking help from the bounteous information continually flowing through social media. Some dogma feels good; and those without sufficient knowledge to evaluate the content are duped. (For more see FLS article: I feel Good; It Must be Right).
As I discovered from my own work, running a site, posting thoughts, and receiving positive feedback provides tremendous psychological and emotional benefits. These endeavors reach beyond normal survival behavior and give life meaning. But a social media campaign is void of the relationships necessary for true intimate connections. Praising responses to the latest post fails to satisfy the intense needs of connectedness. Bare of substance the poor seeker of fulfillment, exposes their loneliness in words. Yet, although apparent to some, the writer is oblivious to their own defensive stances. Perhaps, some of my writings expose my personal fears.
A recent ‘psychology’ site tweeted she was not anti-social; she just doesn’t like to deal with two-faced and hollow people. A few minutes later she tweeted, don’t worry if what you say hurts other people, they are responsible for their own happiness. With thousands of likes and shares, these damaging adaptations to social anxiety and destructive relationships skills, are lauded as profound and healing.
"A social media campaign is void of the relationships necessary for true intimate connections. Praising responses to the latest post fails to satisfy the intense needs of connectedness. "
I felt sorrow, not just for the lonely author, but for the many lonely seeking connection, gobbling up advice that further alienates them from the world. Loneliness is an epidemic rolling through large cities and small towns. We are surrounded by the unknown faces of others; but live woefully alone. Perhaps, part of the problem is this staunch individualistic philosophy that we can say hurtful things and not be held accountable. Or maybe the self-righteous explanations that replace the complex and intricate natures of human relationships with superficial hubris (I don’t understand you because you are two faced and don’t expose your true self). People are complex and dynamic making relationships difficult. If we want a healthy social life, we must work with these realities.
Human interaction will always challenge our skills; but offer many blessings in return (also read FLS It’s Complicated). Those struggling do not need a lesson in psychology from a stranger but continued support and sincere positive regard without lauding the defensive deceptions as wonderful and insightful. We are in this together, with our individual hurts, triumphs, joys and failures. Interacting with others is a challenge, exciting intense anxiety in many; but with supportive others by our side, we can navigate the rough waters of human relationships, wander through the unpredictability of connection with awe and curiosity.
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