The Isolationist Approach To Making Friends

In this, the age of the interweb, the lives of the youth of this, and of almost all nations, have been moulded increasingly by the experiences of others that are plastered across social media. Peer pressure, in all its forms, has always been prevalent in determining how people, and in particular adolescents, act. Groups of friends provide a social shape that one should take, and teens will add things on, and chips bits away, to fit the mould. Of course, to change one’s personality is by no means easy, so sometimes aspects would be falsified, or enhanced outwardly. Nowadays, there’s a large online community on websites such as Tumblr or Reddit of people who are, or at least claim to be, ‘socially awkward’.

I guess the anonymity of a digital existence is appealing to those who are less inclined to go out, meeting new people and having new experiences. Thus the individuals on the Internet may be primarily those who have higher levels of social anxiety. However, as existence on the Internet is barely more than a kind of video game, it would be reasonable to assert that not all of those who claim some level of social anxiety or introversion are quite as introverted as they want to be. Charlie Brooker’s show How Video Games Changed the World ran down a list of video game that have had an impact on society and number one on that list was Twitter. Yes, Twitter, that well-known MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role playing game). And he’s definitely on to something with that decision. Any online profile, be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or even a blog on WordPress, is a chance for the player to promote their best features, to be witty and urbane in an effort to gain likes, favourites, notes or shares. A far cry from points and floating coins but the basis is strikingly similar.

As the online world works so similarly to the gaming world, it is natural for people to conform to what is more likely to make their opinions more relatable, resulting in further peer affirmation of their views, and subsequently, selves. To this end, the rapid growth of people describing themselves as introverts is unsurprising. Furthermore, Social Anxiety is a thing, a real-life condition that can be detrimental for some. Everyone gets nervous and anxious at times, it’s part of that humanity thing that everyone seems to be into these days. Getting nervous before meeting new people doesn’t mean you’re socially awkward or introverted, it’s much more likely to suggest you’re just not a sociopath. That fact that anxiety is a part of what makes us all human beings does go some way to explaining why it’s such a popular assertion however. Reading something that’s relatable makes people happy; it gives them a sense of community. From an evolutionary perspective, it acts as a way of forming groups and strengthening social bonds, it’s the basis of friendship, thus giving further protection and support for the people who are part of the group.

So claiming to be socially anxious seems to be an act that can provide significant benefits. So why am I implying that it’s a damaging endeavour? For two main reasons. As I’ve already said, Social anxiety is real and can be crippling for some people, with anxiety being heavily linked with depression and the damage that that can cause, either to the sufferer or those close to the sufferer (depression has been found to be the mental illness that causes the highest level of aggression). Clearly, by more people wrongly self-diagnosing themselves falsely with a serious condition, those who do struggle could be written off as just another wannabe. I realise that may appear to be an odd choice of phrase, but as this classification becomes more and more fashionable that’s what will happen. A generation of fakers could manifest in a more people becoming hypochondriacal, born out of the same social pressure that’s caused eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia to be such issues for society. Secondly, people who don’t have any more anxiety than the average Joe believing they do could be a serious problem. It could lead to them becoming anxious for real, but deciding that’s how they’ve always been and then rejecting assistance. Or, if they begin to realise the danger of it but still persist in the belief that they have it, they might blame themselves, possibly leading to a whole host of other problems.

Awareness of mental illness is good, they can be horrible. However, it’s a fine line between raising awareness and glorifying it, that tightrope needs to be walked exquisitely, or mankind could fall either way. Since this post is aimed towards popular social networking sites like Tumblr, I’ll sign off in a way stereotypical if that very site. I’m so done.


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About Mark Dolan

Hello there, I'm Mark, a 21 year old English archaeology student. I write about various things; archaeology, musings on my life, and various bits of society that I have something to say about.

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