When Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden their eyes were opened and their innocence, lost. So the story goes knowledge was granted at the cost of sin, and humans were expelled from the garden, paradise lost.
You and I live in the most remarkable of times. With the swipe of a few fingers, we can set ourselves up for potential new love, get “relatively accurate” answers to problems in the efforts to improve our lives, and even talk to friends and family halfway across the world through a portal which will call a screen.
The internet is a gift. It is a part of the magic of this world. And, as with all magic, it can be difficult to understand exactly how it will affect us and the consequences of its use. Irregardless, it is our solemn duty to learn more about how this magical phenomena changes us and how we can change with it for the betterment of all mankind.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”W.B. Yeats
The Internet, a Strange Replication of Our Living World
The internet is all around us. Through hard wires and in unseen radio frequencies, it breathes its own existence, a web of connections in the physical that touches into the invisible. It is everywhere yet truly nowhere.
We built the internet with a little help along the way with some friendly robots we call AI, but then again, I guess we built those too. Since the web comes from hubris, it tends to imitate the way our world works in a type of ethereal way. Websites are imitations of businesses and organizations yet act like buildings with no limits. YouTube and other video streaming platforms are speeches, comedy shows, or plays. Sites like Medium.com or other blogging platforms are libraries without any real books. If it can be thought of, it can be created in the world of the virtual world.
So is the same for social media which replicates groups of people, events, and social situations. In short, social media is its own form of society. Now each society can be broken down into a few different moving parts; relationships, social currency, group dynamics, and absence of presence. Within these, we as a society build constructs that help us as individuals understand and identify the roles we and others play within a society.
Retirement is an agreed-upon social construct in which the individual decides to play less of a critical role within the functioning of the whole society. From an anthropological viewpoint, retirement from society constitutes social death.
“Social death is the condition of people not accepted as fully human by wider society…Employees who retire from their careers can experience another example of social death because of their removal from the daily work lives of co-workers.”Social death – Wikipedia
Social Death as it Fits Within Society
Retirement is something people plan for, spending years filling up their 401k’s and IRA’s and that they look forward to. Retirement is also social death. I want to impart that social death does not equate to something bad. Retirement means you choose to no longer be a functioning part of society; it’s when you hang up your towel, take off your boots, and enjoy the day finally for one goddamn moment.
In the typical fashion, people experience social death later in life. This allows them the time to reflect on their life, nourish their lineage, and maybe grow a garden or two. It is a time of deeper and more mature appreciation. Heck, maybe I’ll join the many and “find god” during my retirement. (Seems to be all the rage.)
Retirement is of course not absolute in death, but as retirement tends to land later in most peoples’ lives this is also the time that most people are starting to lose friends and family due to old age and death. So it goes that social death is, well, more quiet than the younger years.
I want to be clear, I do not think that social death is bad or good, simply different, and I believe is better experienced later in life. The benefit to social death later in life is that you have many connections that you’ve made throughout your life that can make this time outside of society a lot less fucking boring.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”Muhammad Ali
Social Death in Early Life, Thanks Social Media
If you are like me, you work to have a more intentional relationship with social media. I don’t think social media is evil, but fuck does it seem to have a lot of nasty subconscious surprises.
Side Note: If you are less learned on this subject of the effects of social media, I recommend reading Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport or watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix. On average we spend about 2 hours and 24 minutes on social networks (source); get informed and understand what that means.
Back in 2018, I took 2 months off of social media. You can read more about that experience here. It was one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences I’ve ever given myself, right along with not looking in the mirror for a week. I recommend that you try both.
The one thing I can say with confidence is that after a week of being “off” social media, 99% of the world ceased to know I existed. I was off their screen, so I was out of mind. I got invited to a lot less social gatherings. Less people reached out as they felt they didn’t have a “good enough reason” to do so. In short, I experienced a form of social death.
The trade-off: I felt free and I had a shit ton less depression and anxiety. The benefits for me were astronomical to progressing my life and getting a stronger connection with my personal desires and aspirations. Ultimately, I came back to social media. Why? I was tired of being left out, and I wanted to be connected more with friends.
Maybe you have experienced this as well? Maybe I’m not alone in this?
Striking a Balance with Social Media and Living Your Fucking Life
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be alone all the time. I like people. Shit, I straight up love people. There was a time that I thought of social media as evil, and now I feel like I see it more for what it is: a tool.
“Listen, Bob. A gun is just a tool. No better and no worse than any other tool, a shovel- or an axe or a saddle or a stove or anything. Think of it always that way. A gun is as good- and as bad- as the man who carries it. Remember that.”Jack Schaefer
Awareness and intentional use of social media has been my best friend while navigating this internet construct. And, since I’ve started to work towards this mastery of balance, I’ve gained new friends, amazing connections, and potential business opportunities all while carefully monitoring my mental and emotional health.
So go live your life. Share it with the world. Share it where you fucking want. But don’t forget to live.