Opinion

Swiping Left on Social

Anxiety your constant companion? Back away from the phone...

Living your best life through social media? On the constant hunt for likes, followers and heart-eyed emojis? Anxiety your constant companion? Back away from the phone...

There are a great number of beach towns in New Zealand where your utility is worth more than
your winsomeness. Hokitika, Wanganui and Bluff, to name a few. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the Mount is not on this list.

Unfortunately, because the region has developed a reputation as a slightly less tanned Gold Coast. Can’t find anyone good with a chainsaw, but every third person can get up and down Mauao in
21 minutes. Fit as.

Maybe this is a little cruel, we might collectively be a promo girl, but I would like to think we’re
at least aiming for editorial.

Of course, society has always placed great importance on our appearance. We’re visual creatures,
and like it or not, you are judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself.
And then, worst of all, we start judging ourselves, in an endless comparison feedback loop.

I have assessed myself and I have been found wanting. I am:
- 2.5 inches too tall.
- More wrinkled than John Campbell, but less than Robert Redford.
- A stomach on sticks (Boomhauer).
- Missing two teeth and the owner of one grey fang.
- Have a nose that’s been broken twice and straightened once.
At worst, a worn-out diesel mechanic. At best, after brushing my teeth, a mildly successful
South African real estate agent. So on balance, could be worse, but could be better.

And now, social media, Time to fix up, look sharp.

You’re buzzing phone might dish out endorphins when someone hits the like button, but on
balance its depleting your sense of self much faster than the likes can flow. And even if it wasn’t,
why do you need someone else to make you feel good about yourself? No wonder everyone has anxiety. It’s diminishing returns. You’re walking around with a pokie machine in your pocket.
Putting up with feeling bad, just in case you hit the jackpot. You won’t, the house always wins.

This isn’t my opinion, it’s science. All the studies show that social media impacts users’ self-esteem
in a negative way, it has a negative effect on relationships and messes with their sense of reality.
Richards Dawkins is a well-known British public intellectual. Over time, I’m sure his primary contribution to world will not be determined to be any of his published works (boring), but rather
his introduction and articulation of “meme” into a pre-internet world.

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication.
Go deeper than cat videos and you get ideas worming their way into the public conscious. Transmuting as they’re transmitted over time.

The more homogenised it is, the easier it is to pass on. This might explain why everyone looks
the same on social media feeds. Standing out, by fitting in.

Cosplay for the world, bleeding from the pixels into real life. You can’t boycott your biology, it’s
a recipe for ruin. People projecting perfection, living fantasy lives, in fantasy land. We’re all just
cat-fishing each other. We’re being primed for the post-human, blurring the lines between the
real and the imagined.

You’ll do far better to embrace how you look, grey fang and all.

Want to look better right now? Want your friends to feel better? Easy — delete all your social
media and don’t look back. Comparison is the death of joy. Cut it off at the knees. Trust me, try
it out. I’ll leave you with a quote from the long-dead English novelist and poet Samuel Butler:
“Let us be grateful for the mirror reflecting our appearance only.”

By Sam Cummins
Illustration by Stephen Kirkby

First published in issue 11 (October 2018) of Our Place magazine.