I am a political junkie. I live and breathe for a constant stream of news and punditry from a variety of network programs, newspaper articles and podcasts. I even follow polling data and aggregate websites like an addicted sports gambler. Yet this Election Day, I decided to distance myself from every form of social media and piece of news, turned on Netflix and ended up understanding something more about myself. On election night, detached from social media and blind to the results, I fully came to recognize a sad similarity that I share with our now President-elect Donald Trump.
Not only do I live for politics, I also live for social media. I almost inherently have to come to crave the constant gratification that my online presence guarantees me. Within this university’s social setting, that necessity to be part of something — or to fit in — is a driving factor in my constant use of social media and my pathetic desire to paint the picture of happiness to others through the lifeless form of the internet.
On election night, in order to distract myself during the results, I began watching the new season of the Netflix psychological thriller “Black Mirror” — and terrifyingly — the absence of any form of social media that night was accompanied by the first episode of this season dealing with social media gratification.
I watched a woman living in a world in which social desirability is rated on a numerical scale that everyone can see. She strives to reach the upper tiers of society by appeasing other higher-rated members of society through the most artificial and empty displays of human emotion. Human interaction finally becomes artificial, and people essentially only see what they want to see. Without giving away too much, her lust for social desirability backfires, and she experiences the utter turmoil of losing her artificially constructed life full of fake smiles, frappuccinos, Instagram posts and totally fabricated “happiness.”
When the episode ended, I was fairly certain the writers had somehow recorded the anxious thoughts in my mind and transcribed them into a script. Recently, I have come to understand that I have had a disturbing necessity for gratification through forms of social media and had constructed a false image of who I desired to be. The anxiety and stress I induced on myself since arriving to college pushed me to attempt to form a false narrative that only I knew was fake — and I thought it would somehow grant me “happiness.” I had this belief that if I fit in this way, dress this way, drink this much, that these artificially constructed traits would form into an equation equaling happiness.
Yet the turmoil of constantly using separate forms of social media to shape a “happy” presence within this hyper-connected world is downright exhausting. Twitter is there to let people know what you’re doing and what you’re thinking; Facebook to make sure you don’t miss out on parties or events; Instagram to plaster your life for others to see as a fairy tale; and my favorite, Snapchat, to remind others that you did, in fact, drink copious amounts of alcohol and danced like a moron at Rick’s last night because you are fun!
More disturbing, my constant anxiety robbed me of time I spent by myself. I lost who the actual “me” was to some extent. Any moment alone was accompanied by the rushing fear of missing out — a feeling that was immediately dulled and delayed by my use of social media. My outward personality of being outgoing, funny and friendly shattered so easily from a mere hour of loneliness. I had created someone I was not.
Sitting there alone in my apartment during election night, all of my thoughts I have had on my pathetic pursuit of happiness were suddenly paired with the idea of a President Trump. I identified with him.
And I would like to thank him, because through him, I can see that he is the physical manifestation of vanity and constant image-building. He is nothing. Yet he has constructed this idea around himself that he is the greatest, richest and happiest man alive. His outward appearance of dressing in a suit, attempting to look like he’s only 38 at the age of 70, plastering his name on everything he touches, having the “best” of everything and most importantly, using his celebrity and fame to make sure everyone sees how amazing his life is. His sense of self is so weak and fragile that he needs the constant gratification of millions of people to support his pathetic sense of ego.
And that is so sad. He is obviously a horribly sad man and nothing — not even the presidency — will satisfy his bottomless hunger for social gratification. He is an endless cycle of attempting to fill a hole in his heart with everything that money can buy: fame, material goods, the Oval Office.
To some very minor point, I can identify with that endless struggle to somehow “be content” or satisfied. Yet today I have distanced myself from my constant obsession and use of social media as a method of achieving “happiness.” I have found other things within my life that every once in while come together in certain ways to make me feel joyous. My highs get high and my lows get low. I feel human.
Now, I look at a man we will call our president — a man who has literally everything in the world — and all I can see in him is utter depression, emptiness and sadness.
Michael Mordarski can be reached at email@example.com