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"And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all."
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)
Loneliness among people is a notion I first discovered reading Fitzgerald's most acclaimed novel. In both the narrator and the titular character, we see that a person can be just as lonely in the bustle of an illustrious party as they are standing on their balcony at night, yearning for their intangible desires. Loneliness among people is as significant for us as it is for Fitzgerald's characters who drift without purpose as society dictates them to. Society can induce conformity in all aspects of life, more so in 2018 than ever before because our still-new-and-exciting internet is the perfect platform for it to do so. Technology is advancing faster than ever before, and as the Netflix original Black Mirror implies, our phones may have the stronger grip over the hands holding them. My parents were born and bred in a world offline. They avoid, by their sheer inability to utilise the technology properly, becoming paltry flies tangled up in the worldwide web. A world without internet seems almost inhospitable to my generation, and even more so to the generations that succeed. The exponential growth of our dependency on the web is disconcerting, to say the least—considering in my pre-teen years Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., had only just been created and had nowhere near the same influence they have today.
Social media has become as much of a commodity as the water we drink and the food we eat. It has become the primary form of social interaction and our knowledge base. It has become a place to share memories, creativity, and food for thought, but also a place spread petty expectations, envy, and façades. You take a look at someone's online profile and see everything about them that they want you to see. For young people it's the holidays, the parties, the concerts, the festivals—all things that are now valued more by their recollection than their realities. It has become an obsession. The crippling need we have for people to see us having fun—when did having fun stop being enough for us? And hey, I'm not being a hypocrite here, I will fully admit to being just as guilty. It saddens me that an online group chat consisting of my old school friends soon became an almost robotic set of commands to 'like up' each other's online photos. (Cue the loneliness among people). People will do anything to be seen as a part of this depicted merriment. Whether it's posting constant 'throwbacks' to holidays that have been and gone, or pretending you like bubble tea just because the pastel colours photograph well (Side note: I hate bubble tea. That sh*t is gross.) Next thing you know, you're mixing with people who aren't really your people and you're establishing a network of friends you'll never really connect with. Of course, you only realise this when you're really alone, crying your eyes out in your bedroom or stumbling around a drink short of paralytic, and no one is there for you.
One of the principles I live my life by is to be civil to all, friendly to most, and friends with few. The word 'friend' has a slightly different meaning for all of us. Some will say they have one or two friends, others will say they have many and our social networking sites will say we have hundreds. As I write this, I currently have 938 friends on Facebook.
How many of those liked my recent profile picture? 188 (20 percent).
How many of those messaged me on my birthday? 50 (5 percent).
And how many of those would comfort me when I'm sad or look after me when I can't look after myself? About 5 (0.5 percent).
According to what I define as a true friend, only 0.5 percent of what Facebook deems my 'friends' actually fit the bill. The idea of having that tiny number of online friends seems utterly dire to most of us but then it begs the question: how happy would I really be with the other 99.5 percent? As it turns out, that 0.5 percent makes the biggest difference in my life and that 0.5 percent plays a huge part in shaping the person I am today and the person I will soon become. If you define a true friend in the same way I do, these statistics will likely apply you as well.
So to the bubble tea drinkers, I implore to enjoy the taste first and the aesthetic second. And to those who prefer regular tea or a can of pop, I implore you to do the same (although the Instagram post might not have the same allure). Choreograph your life according to quality of experience and more importantly, surround yourself with people who give you the best experience.
"And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler."
(F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)