Antisocial Networking: Mental Health and the Internet | Fanboys Anonymous

Antisocial Networking: Mental Health and the Internet

Posted by Fellonius Munch Thursday, December 5, 2013
"I read what you said today," mum says with a faint, weary tiredness, if not quite tensely. I know her conversational habits as well as I know the back of my hand. It's always an awkward moment, because she never quite says what she means to.

This may not be the beginning of every conversation we have, but you can guarantee that, without fail, it will be mentioned every week. The tone of her voice suggests I've said something I shouldn't have and that I'm going to wind up offending somebody. Not giving a fuck is one of my stronger qualities, and as far as I'm concerned, if I haven't offended somebody, I'm not doing it right.

Necromancer author William Gibson depression quote meme
My counsellor said the same thing quite a lot.
She's talking about something I've written on Facebook. I groan every time she brings it up. I'm not keen on explaining myself anymore, not if she doesn't get it after all this time. I rarely go online to enjoy the perks of having a captive audience, despite the fact I can sit there for whole days when I don't have the energy to interact with the real world bustling beyond my bedroom window. These days I fail to see the social networks as anything more than a place for people to find laughs, to seek attention, and to sometimes just get away with things they'd otherwise be arrested for "in real life."

More than three years ago, I was coming out of a very dark place. For fifteen years I'd survived suicidal urges. I'd cut myself, lost a fair few battles and wars, drank and smoked myself stupid, been through a few unsuccessful jobs, been through a few personal nightmares, and then cleaned up and did it all over again, numerous times.

The Simpsons Homer Simpson trying first step to failure meme
But failure is the first step toward winning!
The last time I tackled those self-destructive urges, I'd been clean and resolute for years, and that was when I faced the most terrifying battle of my life. Those urges weren't my own anymore, but they were winning, and I was secretly going out of my mind. Not so secretly, on the other hand, I was already completely and utterly batshit fucking nuts!

I made a break for a better way of life. I went through counseling and returned to college, passing with flying colors. Those things saved my life, helped me to calm down again, and reminded me of all I was worth and of the better man I was capable of being. They gave me the opportunity to really get out there and do things for myself that I'd previously lost the guts to try.

Social networking from that point onward was meant to be there to help me reach people I would need to know on the long, hard journey toward bettering myself and furthering my prospects. That worked out just fine for about half a year. After that, all of the friends and coworkers I'd made in such a short space of time just vanished (in other words, I deleted them during what you would call a "rage-quit"). It took me a while to realize why: they were A-holes!

A year later I relapsed, grinding to a halt and wondering what happened to my life. I had it all on this stupid computer—in the profiles, forums, groups, and inboxes of these stupid little websites that everybody uses every moment of every day, every time they experience a brain fart and mistake it for a thought—and yet, in the real world, I was invisible, nonexistent, a sad calamity of human waste.

Yeah, what the fuck happened to my life?

Antisocial Networking: Mental Health and the Internet

Facebook social network trolling banner
Ask anything about mental illness today; the answer is anyone's guess! You're more likely to hear fleeting comments about crazy people than tragic stories about your close ones. The number of suicides compared with the amount of illnesses isn't minimal, but unless it's a special case designed to smear somebody else's reputation, you'd have to be a celebrity to get the sympathy you deserve for having succumbed to so much despair. Even then, what good is sympathy if you're no longer there to benefit?

Mental illness is a painful subject for some; it's a dreary subject for the attention deficient and the emotionally retarded. Some treat even the very thought of mental illness as contagious, so they don't let the notion stick around long enough to gain a little empathy and to help a friend.

Paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression (to name but a few)—none of these are fun. They're not a joke either, and no, they're not contagious—unless taking sides means being an ignorant hater or the helpless victim of an ignorant hater.

Being at the mercy of a mental illness does not make you a naturally weak-minded human being. For those who think so highly of themselves and so lowly of others, I ask: if you were a great athlete and an injury had rendered you lesser than an average athlete, would you say that that an inner weakness all along just waiting to break and ruin your life? No, your ego wouldn't allow you such a stinging sense of embarrassment and inferiority, no matter how average and commonplace you really are.

Don't tell me that it's different, either. Whether it's your leg you break or the way your mind copes with great amounts of stress, both instances are just another result of how frail the human body can be, no matter how many battles you can fight and seemingly win. Mind over matter most often applies to outside problems, not to problems from within oneself.

Everybody has a limit, and despite what dramatists claim, that limit doesn't always result in death. What comes after, if not contended with professional help, can be a fate worse than death, as that black cloud fogging your mind goes on to steal your identity, your personality, and your ability to feel—everything that makes you who you are.

Since its foundation in early 2004, Facebook alone has been the center of a lot of controversy, to say the least. Whereas you couldn't blame that particular network for the cruelty and other very debatable behaviors of many of its users, you could easily blame it for not having found better ways to regulate abuse on the site over the decade in which Facebook has gained its reputation as the most popular social networking site in the world. Instead, it has become a breeding ground for trolls (if it didn't redefine the need for that particular noun) and hate crimes.
Advertiser business Laura Ashley against advertising on Facebook rape joke page
It has also become a parade for pages devoted to gang violence, child and animal cruelty, and discrimination on every level. Adding insult to injury, such pages could easily be vetted before being allowed to go public—seeing as Facebook itself is a multibillion dollar business that can afford to employ adequate site moderation.

This is not just about abuse though, and it's not just about Facebook, so chill your bean, Cease and Desist Brigade. I began this article by trying to target networks that were popular and specifying the different reasons why. There seemed little point at the end of my research.

The problem we all face is anonymity, but not just with regard to troublemakers in their many forms. Unless you're a celebrity who wants anonymity (stay off Twitter, then, yeah?), social networking is both a psychological weapon of the life-wrecking troll and a curse to those struggling with the pains of insignificance who count on social media to reach out and find a way into or remain a valued part of their own society.

Yes, social networking was designed to make getting in touch and staying in the mix the easiest it could be. And it was designed and improved to bring people of different social circles, professional networks, and nationalities together. It succeeded in those things and continues to do so every day.

But have you noticed that the bigger any social circle gets, the lonelier you begin to feel?

Enter the serial meme posters who use social media to post shit to their friends' news feed all day long yet rarely respond to conversations started on those posts.

wise wolf facebook meme advice animals
I am Meme poster, hear me woof!
It's obvious that the culture of memes didn't begin with lonely, jobless single parents who don't know how to catch people's attention with the fine art of writing an attention-catching sentence. It's more obvious that it started with people who either just wanted to have a laugh or, more importantly, save the world by posting shit about love and faith and good luck and angels.

Yes, repost my thousands of memes, oh wonderful friends of mine, or the angels will fucking hate you so much that you will be damned to a loveless hell of a life with shitty luck before you get sent to the real Hell, ALL BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T REPOST THE MEME ABOUT THE FUCKING ANGELS!!!

modified facebook share angel good luck meme die horribly
Facebook Angels? Why?
Even if I didn't spend too long on the internet, why do I deserve to have this shit in my news feed? Why must trees die, precious fossil fuels be depleted, and the world pumped full of radiation so that Google can store your thoughtless, dead-end religious wisdom, aimless witticisms, and gibberish in eternal cyberspace for everyone to share? Why? Just why?

Besides the possibility of mental illness working both ways on this—one lonely meme poster being barred from friends' news feed and one depression-suffering reader becoming paranoid because they feel like they're being indoctrinated—it's subliminal messaging gone wrong. Imagine if Jehovah's Witnesses managed to do to your television what Coca-Cola used to do to saturate the market? You'd have a lot of hate and paranoia, sitting all cozy together like eggs in a basket.

It's bad enough that several generations are already showing signs of…

Social Disorders Bred From Social Networking

Hence the title of this article being "Antisocial Networking"! Call me a conversationalist (I sure as hell write like one), but I'm often asked why somebody doesn't like me, why I don't speak to a certain somebody anymore, or why I just can't get along. The answer is usually as simple as, "they're rude."

Ever seen a group of teens hanging out at the mall or at Starbucks, all lined up like pigeons, phones in hand, and not talking to each other? Why? Why would you do that? If any one of them were my child—actually my nephew is almost exactly like that. I'd rather he stay home on Sundays than turn up and act as though he doesn't want to be here, and that's easy enough to suggest, were I so frank; only, Planet Earth is full of people from their teens to middle-age acting exactly the same.
antisocial phone use amongst groups of teens
On the other hand, I'm guilty of using Facebook to speak to people I never go out and see. I know more than most just how damaging that can be to my social skills as well as my relationships. At least I know how to separate the internet from the outside world, and the outside world is not for sleepwalking.

It's not that I don't want to see people; I only don't want to see people 85% of the time (roughly). Writing to speak to somebody edits out the shit that I don't want out of life, like being obliged to stay out when I'm bored shitless and uncomfortable, spending money I can't afford to spend, and having to pay attention beyond my limit. It's enough to remind me of all the things I hate about myself.

Social networking really does breed social disorders in people, especially the young and not quite socially developed. At least I can regain what I know I'm losing; I have that option. In the future when the generations that never needed or wanted the internet to get about and communicate are gone, and selfish old me is too distracted to point out that there's more to life, will the younger generations become lost, thinking that this is it; this is what life is?

Pseudo-friendships with people we don't know, Facebook relationship statuses, becoming people online that we'll never naturally be in real life—what the hell are we doing to ourselves?

The governments, yours and mine, are still bitching and whining about terrorism (the word and the practice they invented to fuck the Russians after WWII and right up until the end of the Cold War), and the conspiracy theorists are having a field day of calling the likes of Aurora shooter James Holmes an ordinary kid brainwashed to be some sort of Manchurian Candidate. In reality, he was just another mentally ill boy pushed over the edge by a lot of bad influences—isolation for one—and then used as a poor example, on all accounts, as to why the world should fear the mentally ill.

Murdered British Soldier Lee Rigby remembrance day revenge meme
Yes, vengeance... because enough death is never enough!
For every shocking newsflash jammed up your sore old news feed and repeated every time somebody shares (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and yearly), there is the unofficial account of events by the amateur journalists wanting to give their takes on events and from there it just gets more and more disturbing.

Talk about mass media market saturation. What the media can't play to you in your living room because of the rightfully cautionary industry code of ethics, you will most likely find waiting for you on your computer screen every time you plug into the matrix. It's a constant information overload on the internet superhighway, a constant gridlock of bad news, bad behavior, and a resulting dulling of the senses, the mind, and the spirit.

We are all prone to mental illness here because whether you see the dangers or not, this is where your friends are. This is where the status updates to the events of your life are published, so that those that can't be with you when you need them can offer their support and keep in touch, just like the creators of these sites intended. There is no leaving the "Antisocial Network," even when you want out, because every comment is a reach out, and every "Like" is a symbol of something you lack in life:

social media icon facebook dislike hate button design
For those of you who recognize this and know that change is necessary, boycott it all you like. Billions of users and advertisers will keep the monster fed; campaign and petition all you can, but you'll just be one out of hundreds of thousands of others using social media to get friends and strangers to "Like" yet another cause that will never be taken seriously. Switch off and never look back. Your friends will eventually find time for you once they've put their phones and laptops down, surely. They might even explain what the latest group conversation is all about, despite the fact you weren't there and will therefore lack a valuable opinion.

Loneliness, insignificance, emptiness—all of these are part of the human condition. That's why we "Follow." That's why we "Like." That's why we "Share" and "Poke." Now that this culture is so ingrained into society's psyche, its routines and habits, there may not be a way out, which is why we need to address the dangers of getting into it to begin with. Yet if ignorance is bliss, maybe it's only the people that care who get hurt. Way to go, humanity! Nice of you to give a shit about the only people that ever cared about you!

As for me, my personal journey never ends. I'm glad to know it, despite being tired of all the battles, and I'm glad to be able to express what I've experienced. I'll always have my weak spots. I don't want bars on the windows and locks on the doors, both metaphorically and literally. Naturally, for every way in, we need a way out, and imprisoning yourself in your own private misery is a sure way into a dead end trap; somewhere we feel that the only escape could be drastic.

That's what I want to share, because a habit such as this (if it becomes full-time permanent) is as good as trapping yourself, imprisoning yourself, and having a false sense of happiness and security in the belief that you can't be affected by something or somebody that isn't happening or existing in the same physical space as you. When you begin to realize just how naive you were, the content on your computer does dictate the outcome of your mental and emotional well being, that's something dangerous that needs to be brought to light.

Mental illnesses breed very quickly in all people. They are invisible; they don't have a physical voice and they can't be cured, only medicated or balanced with therapy. The problem with that is that even having those solutions to hand requires a clear and certain mind to know and willingly admit that you need them. Those too scared, proud, or confused to believe that they need help won't seek help. They will just keep on adding to the crazy until every single one of us becomes a completely different creature altogether, socially and practically.

Social networking is a dangerous place to be if you're prone to mental illness, and even if you're not. Because you can be exploited. Because you can be changed for the worse. Because no amount of responsibility taken can excuse what social networking has become, at this point.

It needs to stop somewhere. Please let it be by personal choice!
Ron Livingston Office Space comedy computer smashing scene
Note: if any of you are suffering emotional problems, having morbid thoughts of death or self-harm, or feeling tremendous lows or bouts of panic/anxiety, do not post a status about it. Visit your general practitioner or hospital.

Fanboys and Fangirls, I hope that this article has been insightful and useful to you, and should you want to debate it, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading.

If you would like to join the team as a contributor or are interested in sponsoring a post on this site, purchasing an ad, becoming an affiliate, or taking part in any kind of promotional opportunities, please use this contact form to send us an email and we will get in touch as soon as possible with more information.