The awakening of a 21st century Narcissus

2014-08-10 16:38

He has learnt to swim. Where the perennial streams of social networks meet is now the lake in which the 21st century Narcissus naively believes he will not drown.

Here he fishes, morning and evening, for the assumption of an escalated self-esteem. His rod, the photo of the weekend that was ‘Twitpic’d’ and ‘Instagrammed’ before hitting friends’ Facebook timelines. His bucket, the hollowness of fulfilment that really cannot be occupied by the number of ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ that increase by the hour. He carries but the empty weight of this bucket at the end of each day leaving it in the bathroom and then slithering into his cold Mr Price Home sheets which, making no attempt to warm him, remind him of his insecurities. With the tweet “All snuggled up and ready to catch some zzz’s” he consoles himself and sleeps, but for a while.

Morning comes and back to the bathroom he heads, picking up his bucket and preparing for the ‘morning selfie’, the one that wins the caption “I woke up like this.”

Although it doesn’t make sense that his 800 Facebook friends whose status messages read “Not even in the mood for that Calculus lecture.” would be at all interested in his #morningselfie, to him it does - after all, he did capture it 23 times. He is shattered when he connects to the University’s Wi-Fi to find only 8 likes on his selfie. For it was important to him. It was important for his friends and his followers to know what he ‘looks like’ when he wakes up in the morning.  It is important for them to tell him, or rather, show by number of likes that he looks good without having showered, because his mirror, oddly, is not able to. The rise of this now popular practice would make one wonder if the 21st century mirror fails to obey the laws of physics and if it doesn’t allow light to display its properties as a wave…

Nonetheless, Narcissus and the superficials, the self-proclaimed, the sophisticates – the cool kids – continue on their runway, strutting their stuff. Weekend after weekend, Thursday to Sunday, hundreds of photos taken across chill sessions, dinners and clubs; 1 for memory, 99 for ‘likes’. On the other hand the less popular, the inferior begin to adopt the ridiculous belief that their worth is determined by this ‘scale’ of likes.

Social media ‘share’ buttons have modified their functions, now inviting the youth to the glorious occasion of exhibiting every detail of their #funtimes with those whose lives aren’t more interesting, to suffocate timelines with endless photos and trains of hashtags  - because if you did not post it, you did not do it. One simply cannot dress up without sharing their ‘outfit of the day’, study without having the whole world informed, or go to the gym without making an announcement as if that will immediately give one an invitation to the Commonwealth Games.

Who told us that the (in)significances of our morning faces, our states of being, our undertakings (and many things that many people on the internet do not really need to know) will appreciate or depreciate with responses from social networks? Whether your selfie is admired or not, your beauty or even lack therefore (which is not at all important because no one created themselves) does not change. Your #betterthanyours trends will not improve your life or add any more breath to it. Social media has not only betrayed our modesty, but also Narcissus, as well as his inferiors. They satisfy no one, unveiling, perhaps another interpretation of Sylvia Plath’s metaphorical Mirror – the one whose truthfulness is confused with cruelty, hence Instagram filters.

Sadly we are becoming a generation that believes that likes measure worth and that our bucket of fulfilment can be filled by the empty sentiments of people who forget our existence as soon as they log off or close app; the people who, when these apps are down will not call to ask about how great your weekend was, the ones who will envy your real-life confidence while dying to ‘like’ it. But they cannot do so because they have not learnt that in life, there isn’t a like button, but humility and the genuineness that allows one to pay the next person an honest compliment, without the feeling that it is costly.

Narcissus thinks that he has now learnt to swim, that he will not drown. Yet, does he control the currents, the ones he now blindly relies on to rest the waves into smooth ripples that will reflect his glory? Does he know how to swim against the currents when they turn against him? This time, however, it is not he that will drown, but his person - his self-worth.

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