by Juan Korkie, Clinical Psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia
We live in a time of oversharing, where social media has become a two-headed beast of exhibitionism on the one hand and voyeurism on the other. When people are constantly sharing details and pictures of themselves, where they are and what they are doing, this is exhibitionism: behaviour that constantly attracts attention to oneself. But this is only possible because of the other head of the beast, voyeurism. Although voyeurism traditionally refers to deriving enjoyment from secretly watching people in private moments, it equally applies to the fascination and obsession of watching others on social media. The two heads of the beast are constantly feeding each other.
The two-headed beast of oversharing and vicarious living is just one of many ways of not embarking on what I think of as the inner journey
I am not speaking about the occasional use of social media as a way of staying connected and sharing what is happening in our lives with those close to us. I am speaking specifically of constantly sharing and posting, where a device has become the interface through which the world is experienced. I am also speaking of people who spend hours a week scrolling through posts by others, liking, commenting. In the former, the person is constantly elsewhere, performing for an audience, and in the latter, the person is vicariously living through the lives of others.
Irrespective of whether I am oversharing or spending a lot of time watching other people, I am not present. I am actually elsewhere in terms of the focus of my attention, my emotional investment and my relationship to my body and senses. This is the biggest problem of our time: we are almost never fully present in the moment. To clarify, these are (some) of the dimensions of being present:
• Being in the here-and-now (not somewhere else in terms of thinking about the past
or the future).
• Being in this place (not somewhere else in my head, telling a story about this place,
or wanting to be somewhere else).
• Being in this body as a whole (not just in my head or feelings).
• Being with another (really seeing and focusing on those around us).
• Being here willingly (not just being present for the sake of it, or while I am waiting to
do something else).
• Being here fully (not just in my head, but allowing the moment, irrespective of it
being good or bad, to fully resonate in my whole being).
Oversharing and vicariously consuming the experiences of others are both actually symptoms, not the problem itself. Similarly, the fact that we are typically not very present is also not the problem but the symptom. The real question, to which every answer will be very individual, is why we cannot tolerate being present. And this I see in my therapy every day. When we slow down and become present, we immediately become more connected with what lives inside of us. I speak of our internal world that starts to push through the surface, entering into our awareness.
When we form a closer relationship with ourselves, there is a vast world of riches that is revealed
This is the origin of the beast. Not that we spend too much time on devices, and not that we are not present. We do not live inside ourselves, and we struggle to tolerate that which we have been suppressing, avoiding and escaping. As I said, the content of this will be different for each individual, but the process of disconnecting from our internal world is the same. If we were to stop, and slow down, and connect, we would be confronted with the unfinished work of our life. We will be faced with our complex feelings and thoughts, often unprocessed and unintegrated, about ourselves, others and our place in the world. As such, the two-headed beast of oversharing and vicarious living is just one of many ways of not embarking on what I think of as the inner journey.
The above probably does not sound like a great motivator, but it only describes the result of becoming disconnected from ourselves. When we form a closer relationship with ourselves, there is a vast world of riches that is revealed. I am speaking of the benefits of walking the path of really diving into ourselves, of really forming an accepting and compassionate relationship with ourselves, of fearlessly embracing both the light and the dark, the good and the bad, inside of us. There is no quick fix that can give you this. It is a journey, but there are ways to start the journey:
- Stop Recording Life, Live it Instead. Stop trying to capture moments with a device; capture them with your entire presence instead.
- Use All Your Senses, it’s 3D. Intentionally move away from just looking and thinking. Try to awake and deepen your other senses.
- Stop the Internal Dialogue. Take conscious control of what is happening in your head. Repeatedly practice bringing your thoughts and attention back to the moment.
- Detox from Sensationalism. Stop pursuing the intense, amazing, awesome and earth-shattering. Consciously move away from the addiction to intense experiences. Develop your ability to find beauty and pleasure in the mundane.
- Stop being a Tourist. Stop trying to capture the top attractions of life in a short time as possible. Engage in activities that have no outcome. Slow down, step away from what is known and familiar.
- Explore, not Capture. Consciously and intentionally become more interested in what is happening around you. Explore rather than capture, experience things deeply rather than rushing to the next thing.
- Stop Watching, Get Dirty. Step into your life, do new things, make mistakes, have your own experiences. These are your experiences, and they are far more valuable than the lives of others.
- Don’t Panic. If you do the above, you will also start to become connected with parts of you that may have been neglected. Give it space. Embrace it. It will be difficult, but it becomes easier with time, and the benefits last forever.