When Did Being Antisocial Become Cool?
A Saturday Night in 2012 vs. 2019
When I was in high school, a Saturday night was considered failure when you lacked the company of a group of friends, instead resigning to a TV show or a Skype call with friends from home. Ten seasons of Game of Thrones and a documentary wave on Netflix later, the failed Saturday night of 2012 seems like an ideal one in 2019.
As soon as people didn’t have to hang out with people to fill their time, they stopped wanting to. Human beings love stories, and now that infinite number of these stories are available on streaming platforms, who needs real-life experiences? Why make an effort to get a drink with a friend when you could just cozy up in your blanket and watch engrossing content for less than half the time and money? Why make small talk with the coworker in the awkward elevator ride when you just check your Twitter feed? Why have the uncomfortable conversation with your partner when you could watch something together and pretend everything’s alright?
Our need for instant gratification as millennials has led us to think that we can easily obtain on-demand socializing. Feeling lonely? Just hop on a dating app. Feeling stressed? FaceTime your long-distance best friend. But maybe our loneliness and stress rates wouldn’t have hit an all time high in decades if we didn’t rely on the technology that seems to balm them in the first place.
JOMO is the New FOMO
Lately, Instagram is inundated with “Me cancelling all Friday night plans,” memes with the picture of a girl blissfully wrapped up in a bathrobe with a glass of wine and her cat on the couch. A popular internet fad is now the antisocial individual, the homebody, the push back from scenesters. It’s now all about reveling in singledom, jokes about therapy sessions, the terror of being an adult or putting it out there that hitting a club can actually be pretty hellish. And slumming it on the couch? Heaven.
The most popular memes on humor and pop-culture-based Instagram and Twitter accounts such as The Fat Jewish and Girl With No Job et al? Pictures of cats chilling on couches, confessions of a sub-par life and vignettes of people expressing a (sort of) joking disdain for other people. Or as one poster puts it: “God bless Uber drivers that don’t attempt small talk”. The top themes nowadays are being shit at make-up, loving dogs more than humans, eating pizza, not showering or exercising, and not going to the gym. JOMO, or the joy of missing out, has replaced FOMO as the trope. In a world of constantly switched-on, ostentatious displays of popularity, perhaps it isn’t surprising that things would start to pitch in the opposite direction.
There’s the sense that, and it’s even stronger among millennials, we’re all somewhat inadequate as adults. We’re awful at cooking, we don’t understand pensions, and we just wanna be left alone to watch marathons of soap operas. When we realize, that other people feel this way too, we feel better. However, while these images arguably promote self-love and make the idea of staying in more socially acceptable, an overdose of them propelled through our passive consumption habits, proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you think it’s okay to spend weekends by yourself, the more you dodge making plans with already weakened networks.
Reclaiming Social Media for Yourself
I know there’s a sanctity to being by yourself consuming content you care about rather than deal with your social anxiety around people you didn’t want to see in the first place. But you are only making your world smaller by unflinchingly depending on new media which gives you the illusion of geography not mattering when it comes to friendships. Talking to the person sitting next to you on the bus, asking your roommate how their day was, or making small talk with that coworker in the elevator, will make you more human, if nothing else. If after an 8-hour work day, more pixels are all we care about, it’s a sad world to live in. Humans are social creatures, and perhaps our increasingly engaged relationship with technology is causing us to defy our biological nature. Maybe this is why millennial depression rates are at all-time high.
I’m not making the case for you to go on a social media exile and throw away your phone and find yourself––just remember to always strike a balance. No kind of content you consume on the internet can be as fulfilling as the in-person interaction you can have with a close friend or loved one. You always leave the conversation learning something new, feeling loved or providing support to someone else––rewards that are far greater than the entertainment value any trending Netflix or Prime documentary can provide you. True sharing, connectedness, and feeling known really are irreplaceable phenomenons. We must be cognizant of the fact that social media, especially Instagram, tends to promote extreme ideas––either we’re competing for shots of the most glamorous, popping life or of the most banal one. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Being uncool might have become the new cool, but remember, you don’t have to conform to either of those ideas when you can just be yourself.