The social swing of life

Get in the social swingLife isn’t viewed through our own two eyes anymore. We now let a smartphone, tablet or laptop be the first witnessed of things happening around us.

We learn about other, not by talking to or observing them from a sun-drenched patio with a cool drink in front of us. Instead, we check out our friends’ Facebook and Twitter pages and read their blogs. Direct communication seems a thing of the past.

I myself am all too guilty of using up internet space by blogging, using social media to talk to family and friends, mail, Skype, reading newspapers, playing Scrabble and whatnot. In doing so, we quite often forget about privacy issues and what others can pick up from our continuous data stream.

For the sake of it being easier to email than to talk on the phone – and having a few valid backup reasons for doing so as talking on a phone makes me wince of eye and facial pain and needing to sleep when I feel I need to – I look at it from a different view also.

Rather than intruding on someone’s life by them having to answer a phone call, people can reply by mail when or where it suits them best. Smartphones… they’re called ‘smart’ for good reasons.

Sure, we praise ourselves for living or growing up in a world of social networks, wireless internet and being able to see what happens on other planets. It gave me the life I am leading right now:, and long may it continue.

Being able to write when my eyes permit it, meeting fantastic people and therefore simply being a happy creature, mea culpa. Sometimes, though, we miss a lot of real-life and/or interpersonal quality time because we’ve become too absorbed with intelligent, artificial technology. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Reading, writing, paying, playing, listening, watching… we often hide behind artificial technology, deliberately leaving out that interpersonal aspect of life. Often it feels like forced-upon-us technology also. Selfies are just one example of this. Instead of friends or family taking our pictures, people now pose and pout by themselves and take their own pictures.

It’s human nature to compare income, looks and other material or non-material things people have, and nowhere more so in our own lives. It’s easy for relationships to become frayed because people interpret your life from their own 2-D perspective on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, and not from shared, interpersonal communication or experiences. Perhaps active listening has become unintentional hearing. Feeling compassion every so often turns to judgements.

Filters, just like smartphones, are used to try and capture a moment that suits the viewer, but not the reality of the person being viewed. In return, the person facing this can feel unheard, unappreciated and misunderstood. It’s not always about clean, technical, clinical facts, though, but about how it affects you personally, without filters. For example, in my view, pain is relative.

How so? Pain barriers rise and fall according to how you perceive it to be. An otherwise healthy person might have a migraine, and rate that an 8 or 9 out of 10 on a pain scale because they’ve never felt worse pain than that.

To me, migraines used to be as painful as yours. Later on, however, I found an even worse pain: trigeminal neuralgia, otherwise called ‘The Suicide Disease’ because of the intensity of the pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia can be a 8.5 if not 9.5 out of 10 on a pain scale. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more painful, trigeminal pain made sure it did. However, suddenly the pain scale of my migraines dropped several points in comparison with trigeminal pains.

This shows that what can be extremely painful to you, could now be a mere blip on my radar because pain or fatigue is hard to measure and because it’s viewed from our own experience, and therefore perspective.

Many times doctors ask you how high you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, and use such scales and levels for an illness they try to define. In the eyes of your doctors, your pain levels might not be perceived as high or as low. Once again, life’s viewed not through our own eyes, but many times, through those of others.

Filters, unlike those used to brew a mean cup of coffee, are hard to break down. They are used everywhere we look and come in all sorts of varieties. Whether it’s a smartphone, Facebook page, pain scales in your doctor’s mind or someone else’s perspective, getting real is often hard to do. The test of this time will be how to be honest.

We used to be social animals, but these days we’re more and more leaning towards narcissism. We think or do as we please and when or where we feel like it. As a social experiment, we failed drastically. We took “social” out of our prerequisite to life, just not as Mark Zuckerberg intended.

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 thoughts on “The social swing of life

  1. We often can’t travel and are in constant pain. I’m grateful there IS electronic communication. It doesn’t make up for no direct contact but it beats no contact. I miss seeing friends, but many of them live far away … and a fair number aren’t living at all. I miss having an in-person social life. Isolation is hard. Sometimes I get very depressed about it.

    I don’t think we’re being narcissistic. I refuse to beat myself up for doing the best I can. You shouldn’t beat yourself up either.

    1. Oh, absolutely Marilyn, social media is fantastic, and living in a different country than my family, it’s invaluable every single day. Like you say though, you sometimes miss an in-person social life and isolation can be very hard. When you realise that social media cannot cure all isolation and others use it to validate themselves too much, it feels a little bit contrived to me (as in selfies left, right and centre, especially of young girls pouting as if they’re 25 while forgetting they’re only 13)

    1. Thank you Jean! It’s hard to know these days, isn’t it? It’s human nature to sometimes want to portray ourselves better or more than we are. Animals do so when they’re looking for a mate, so why wouldn’t people do the same, after all, we’re mammals also.

      It’s sad though, because from my experience, sometimes others just don’t want to see the real you, and they want you to be the way they want you to be. All things considered, social media and technology is made perfect for it because you can never see the “real” person as if you would when seeing them in ‘real time.’ It’s about honesty then really, isn’t it?

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