The Dark Temptation of Social Media: Double Lives

Madison Holleran posted a photo of Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia to Instagram (right) an hour before jumping to her death.
One of the deepest diseases of human nature is lying.  And I am talking about something far more subtle and destructive than bearing false witness to a teacher or police officer in order to get out of trouble. One of the darkest elements of broken humanity is to lie about who we are. To create a false identity and then try to maintain it. The need to hide our pain and sin behind a mask of smiles and virtue.

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word for a person that wears a mask. It originates with the Greek theater, where actors wore masks to disguise not only their identity but even the sound of their voices. A hypocrite is a kind of actor that pretends to be someone they are not. Traditionally this concept has been reserved for people pretending to be moral, for example religious people, public leaders, or politicians.  But the concept is broader than preaching abstinence while practicing indulgence.  It includes those of us who stay in character once we have left the stage.  The hypocrite is essentially an imposter. We are disgusted to find out that people we respect because of their public persona are actually using their image to cover up a life of corruption and debauchery. 

Well, it appears that what was once reserved for politicians and the religious is now a growing temptation for the masses. Perhaps it was there all along. But social media has provided a window into the ubiquity of human deceit.  This article in the New York Post discusses growing darkness that lies beneath the surface in social media.  The author cites some extreme examples, but anyone with a Facebook account understands this.  We are subject to two related temptations:  To lie about our own life while believing and comparing ourselves to the lies that our friends are telling. This is no joke. 

Maureen Callahan, the author of the article in the NY Post cites an example of Zilla van den Born.  “Last year, she uploaded a monthlong series of photos taken on her travels in Southeast Asia — scuba diving, praying in a Buddhist temple, sampling local cuisine — then revealed those images were all the work of Photoshop. She had hidden in her apartment the entire time, duping even friends and family.”

Wow, how bad does life have to be to want to do this?  For those of us old enough to remember the ancient world of 10 years ago, all of this is pretty frightening.

Technology is the great magnifier. It has the potential to draw out and magnify the dark side of human nature. And can do this by several magnitudes, all while maintaining the filtered image of a smile.

Here are a few important parts of the article. The whole thing is worth reading and very important.:

‘Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Houston, has spearheaded a similar study [concerning social media].“The idea came to me when my little sister, who was 16, wasn’t invited to a school dance,” Steers, 38, tells The Post. “She told me about logging on to Facebook the very next day and seeing all these pictures of her friends at the dance, and that actually made her feel worse than not being invited.”

“Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” was co-authored with two other social psychologists and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology last year. Steers cited the work of social psychologist Leon Festinger, who, in 1954, came up with “social comparison theory,” the idea that we measure ourselves in relation to others’ failures and successes.’

Again Callahan writes,

‘Then there are those who aggressively seek out admiration and envy. Google “GoPro proposal” and you’ll get 428,000 hits — people who planned and recorded the moment they got engaged, then uploaded it for global consumption. Some couples live-stream it. Others stage-manage the “set,” then hire professional photographers to capture the moment.

“The engagement thing is so creepy,” says Chelsea Fagan, 26, whose website, The Financial Diet, covers the impact of social media on young women. “There’s this weird arms race now where everything has to be a moment, no matter how private. We always get a lot of responses with weddings and engagements — women spend a lot of money to look ‘Pinterest perfect.’ ”

It’s not just weddings or special events, though. Social-media users spend exorbitant amounts to look like their daily, everyday lives are spent eating the finest food, wearing the most on-trend designs, living a stylish, well-appointed life — no problems.’ (emphasis added)


Source: Our double lives: Dark realities behind ‘perfect’ online profiles | New York Post

Ashley Madison Data Leak Leads to Possible Suicides and Extortion

Nuclear explosions are dangerous in a number of ways.  But it is the fallout after the explosion that causes the most enduring damage.

It seems there is some strange fallout from the Ashley Madison info leak. If you don’t know about it, Ashley Madison is a website that was created to help people commit adultery in anonymity.   And evidently the kinds of people that used the site REALLY don’t want their private behavior to become public.  This makes them easy prey for people with the truth and bad intentions.  For some the release of this information is not just embarrassing, it is devastating.  And this makes them prime targets for extortion.

None of this should come as a surprise. Ashley Madison is not some small, insignificant website with a few users. This site had 30 MILLION people trusting that it would become a safe secret place for dark deeds.  And it should be evident now that such a place does not exist.  As Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”  And ironically the world is not only full of unscrupulous adulterers, it is also full of people that want to take advantage of them.

This level of infidelity can only be remotely possible when we are satisfied with hypocrisy, when we are more upset about immoral people exposing infidelity than we are about immoral people practicing infidelity. Right now the news is that hackers have breached this information, when the real story is that we are so desperate to lead double lives.

In a fascinating and hopeful twist, this whole situation may become a golden opportunity. It is an open door to come clean. It may be an opportunity for marriages to heal, and root causes to be exposed.  People that have been skulking about in the shadows may paradoxically stumble into hope when the light dawns on them.  That is my prayer.

It’s not good to find out you have cancer, unless you have cancer.

We wrongly suspect that the revelation of our misconduct is the big problem, when it is actually just a symptom.  It’s not good to find out you have cancer, unless you have cancer. Then finding out opens the door for treatment.

Ashley Madison leak leads to possible suicides, Toronto police say – The Globe and Mail.

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best”

%22Want the Best for your child, Don't want

Our children and young adults are facing a lot of pressure to succeed. GPA. AP courses. College admissions. This observation is coming from those that watch our kids, and it is coming more frequently.  We all want our children to succeed and have bought into the American narrative that the only way for this to happen is for them to earn degrees from prestigious schools. This has a number of untoward effects.  One is huge student debt. Another is a disdain for the trades. We just don’t look at plumbers and welders and think “success.”

Perhaps the most troubling of these effects is the mental and emotional pressure it places on our young adult children. We impose our own aspirations on them, at times even denying them of normal elements of childhood play.  The pressures can be too much for many to carry, and the overall effects are not good.  At the extreme end of the spectrum It seems that more teenagers are deciding to jump in front of trains.

Frank Bruni writes about the suicide rates among teenagers in places like Palo Alto and the Washington DC suburbs.  They are higher there than other places.  And as researchers look for causes they find that the high pressure world of adult competition is trickling onto our children and contributing to a life of anxiety and despair.

Some of this reveals the irony of wealth and success.  Having all that one could want in this world may be one of the worst things that could happen.

Bruni writes,

“Adam Strassberg, a psychiatrist and the father of two Palo Alto teenagers, wrote that while many Palo Alto parents are “wealthy and secure beyond imagining,” they’re consumed by fear of losing that perch or failing to bequeath it to their kids. “Maintaining and advancing insidiously high educational standards in our children is a way to soothe this anxiety,” he said.”

Strasbourg offers some wise advice,

“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best.”

Best, Brightest — and Saddest? – The New York Times.