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  • Writer's pictureHayden Purcell

Cyber Insecurity

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

It has dawned on me lately, that despite growing up in a time where technology was beginning to takeover, and adapting with it alongside my growth, that I have become the opposite of what is expected and assumed of today's generations.

I am confident in who I am in the real world, and I am incredibly insecure about doing anything at all online.

Like most people these days, I spend entirely too much of my time avoiding productivity getting lost in the realms of social media. For all my indignation of everything it entails, I too am a chronic scroller who can get suckered in by those pointless videos, albeit, I haven't decayed into the depths of TikTok yet...Yet.

But I feel like a stalker, I'm a silent onlooker into the lives portrayed around me, witnessing the pointlessness and the successes of old school friends, penpals, work colleagues new and old, those people you meet on a night out you might never speak to again, and let's not deny, strangers, some of whom I've never communicated with for fear on both ends of being outed by Nev and Max.

I rarely post on my socials, because I obsess about how they will be perceived. If I post what I find funny, I ruminate over the notions over how funny it actually is, if anyone is laughing, and if it makes sense. If I post selfies when I'm out and about, I am overcome with worry about people seeing it and thinking "who gives a shit where you are or what you're doing?", and if I post stuff creatively, like these very blog posts, or music I've made, I am defeated by negative cycles over quality of my creations, and anxiety over their subjective reception.

Now, consider two different scenarios...

  1. I have played, solo, at open mic nights, songs that I have written. Evidently, to a crowd of 2, maybe 3, all of whom weren't listening and don't care.

  2. I have shamelessly promoted my own music through all my social networks, and plugged away to get listens, likes and shares, ultimately to be noticed by 1 maybe 2 people, who shared because I specifically asked them to.

Is there any theoretical difference between these situations?

The first situation being in the real world, I am fine with. When I used to play on stage, I got lost in it, I enjoyed the experience and had those good kind of anxious butterflies when you do something exciting. The kind of feelings that when I think about it, make me remember that I enjoy being in the spotlight, I like to perform, to be seen, and heard.

Yet all the confidence I held onstage disappears in an instant when it comes to presenting myself online.

In my personal opinion, I feel that those who are confident in life tend to behave in a similar fashion to myself online; posting infrequently yet possibly observing, and posting when they are so enamoured or passionate about something that they want to share with pride what they're doing without recourse.

For the most part, I feel that those who post more frequently, and unashamedly, online are trying too hard to create a farcical representation of their lives. Ones that are filled to the brim with endless activities, social interactions, outings (pre-covid), and friends. When in reality, there's likely a lack of confidence and activity in their reality that in their machinations gives them a sense of belonging in an increasingly complex world.

I was a bit of a loner at school, those formative years of adolescence gave me few tangible friendships, some I hold dear to this day, and some I admittedly yet unintentionally distanced myself from in later years despite the veritable ease of maintaining contact, especially via socials.

Whilst I did have a friendship group, I was also discovering a creeping depression that, like all depressive states do, encouraged me to ignore those opportunities for closeness.

I found solace in online friendships, and like a lot of people in those early years of social media, I discerned a lot of meaningful interactions with people who to this day, I have never met. Some of which I still very much plan to meet one day, and some who exist on my friends list as memories and reminders of the lessons I had learned growing up.

My confidence in reality was low as a teenager going into a young adult, I could never really find my place, and never truly felt confidence in the things that I said, thought and felt, and therefore never expressed much and instead sought to only fit in. Ultimately, to be what I felt, fitting in with a crowd that potentially didn't fit with who I really was.

As I grew, and had my experiences and explorations, things began to shift, and at the same time, social media was beginning to be used as a marketing tool. Those first few viral runs, of things that would now not be worthy of such attention, was seen as a unique and inspiring way of garnering attention towards your creativity. During this growth, I was discovering and indulging in my passions for music, film critiquing, and whatever took my fancy. Ultimately creating and sharing my novice content with little care for its reception, and I was learning these things whilst also working my first proper full time job, and experiencing my first tastes of the real world outside of school.

Over the next few years from my first job, I began to very slowly gather more of an understanding about myself, through the experiences I had, the films I watched, and the people I met. To finally, recognise where I sit as an individual in reality, and I grew to accept that and whilst many people may think it's no big feat to be a functioning human who can go to the pub with his friends, for me, it took me time to get there.

So I guess this is where things get interesting, after several turns of events and life altering medical problems, I emerged from the other side with a newfound perception; that I was special, that there is something grand I am meant to do with my life in order to give it purpose.

Only to fall down a rabbit hole, when I realised, I am not.

It took me years to overcome my struggle to settle on the idea, that I am no different to anyone else on the planet, that my ideas, my opinions, are not unique and singular to my experience. That the statistical probability of me being a truly individual unique entity in a world of 7 Billion + people is a bonafide impossibility.

Everyone has different ways of digging out of their depths when things get tough, and for me, that was acceptance of the things that I cannot control, and from this I became better able to indulge in my real experiences with my friends, work, outings, and enjoy them. But now I am at an impasse.

Whilst I am fully capable of those real world necessities, I struggle massively with my creativity, I know that there is a creative element to my personality, and I know that there is a passion for music inside which I feel lately is being stifled by my own inability to stop myself from overthinking everything, and there are so many other things that I would love to try and see if I would be any good at, like comedy, or writing, even acting, but I feel incapable due to the notion and deep intense self belief that nothing will come of it.

Maybe I am not as secure as I protest to be, and I do believe that some of this insecurity comes from social media.

So much of what we interpret these days as fame and success is through our social media platforms. Some grow fame from it, some like Johnny Depp don't have it for years, and when they do, become so followed so quickly they might break servers at Instagram HQ, and others are famous purely because of it.

I guess this is where I get cripplingly insecure about being online:

  1. It exists forever. People like Hartley Sawyer lose their job, who's 10 year old tweets murdered his career overnight.

  2. It's impossible to discern the authenticity of someone's perception to what you post, and that is both in terms of what is commented, and lack thereof.

  3. Social media and fame these days almost seem to go hand in hand, and for a nobody, it's the best way of getting any attention. Yet, at the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult, arguably equal to, if not possibly greater to, the struggles to reach stardom pre-socials, due to the oversaturation of people doing the same things...And better.

  4. I am acutely aware of my lack of originality.

  5. Sharing what you're passionate about isn't enough anymore, you also need hard work, and consistency to promote your stuff, and you've got to shamelessly push it HARD to break any barriers.

I preach time and time again, to anyone I talk to who struggles with hobbies and passions, that they should do these things for themselves, and nobody else, and I try to live by that as much as possible.

For me, I am only truly stuck in that mentality once I've started something and gotten lost in it.

There have been countless times when I've started a piece of music, or made baby steps to indulge in something new, and I become so overcome with the idea of how I will be perceived, or the lack of reaction to anything I do, that the project ceases before it begins. And it really seems like social media exists to indulge the ego in the sense of reaction, and validation.

I feel like it is impossible to indulge in and promote your creativity without the need to be validated in doing so...

With no reaction feeling akin to negative reaction, and putting you off of indulging in it forever.

If you're doing something for passion...Why are you sharing it? And if you're doing something to better people's lives, but nobody reacts, what's the point of doing it?

Music is an experience to be shared, and means more spiritually and intellectually to some more than others. So maybe my focus is wrong, perhaps in growing up in an age of technology and social media, that whilst I am sitting at my workstation trying to make music under the guise of it being for myself, it is not without agenda, because ultimately, I want to be proud of what I've created, and in that pride, I want to share it, and for people to validate that pride, by telling me and showing me that what I am doing is worthwhile.

My brain works very much on a risk/reward process. That for everything I try, I need to receive some sort of positive sensation as an outcome, and my deep rooted fear of failure makes it impossible to really endeavour with the things I feel like I truly care about. So when the aspirations don't marry up with the expectations, I take it incredibly heavy, and it creates these great valleys of time between projects, further hindered by this modern notion that consistency is a heavy component of social media outreach, the awareness of which makes me feel intense internal pressure to do something productive in order to work on the next thing, followed by an understanding that working on something because you have to is unlikely to yield equivalent results to that which you work on out of passion.

Online activity makes me insecure, because for all its original humility and fun upon inception, I have created for myself this series of platforms where I feel like I struggle to belong. Just like school. A platform where your experiences are not fleeting moments in time, but permanently imprinted upon your ever expanding psychological online profile used to judge your lifestyle and manipulate your news sources.

A series of platforms where you can be whoever you want to be, and present your life in any way that you want it to seem. Except I want to be myself, because I know where I stand with my personality in reality, but online it's like you have to visualise and actualise your end goal and act like you're there before you get there. So what actually am I trying to use social media for?

Maybe my usage of these platforms is confused, that the line is blurred between using socials as a method of maintaining contact with friends and as a marketing tool that can make and/or break you. That my self fulfilling prophecy of being relegated to the realms of obscurity is actualised by my incessant chronic overthinking when I begin to form a post, or start a project with a view to share it.

Is this possibly an element of where I get stuck with regards to motivation; before I even begin to indulge in creativity, I'm already catastrophising about the outcome bringing me nothing but disappointment. That I'm getting ahead of myself, and daydreaming of creating something I believe in, that will get the healthy amount of views that I feel will validate me, only to instantly shut myself down with pessimistic realism, based on evidence of previous endeavours.

And yes, I know, 'but you don't know if you don't try'; I am aware that there is a possibility that if I take my own advice, and persist with consistency towards my endeavours, that I might hit those numbers of likes that I feel will validate me in the way I want to be online.

But a big component to this, like all anxiety and depression based disorders, is fear. Trepidation of the perception of my attempts, which is admittedly caused by my very own distaste, contempt and apathy for a lot of the content I willingly consume through the scope of the people that I follow and friend...It's basically like dishing it without being able to take it. Something that I can do so easily in the real world.

So could it be the lack of human reaction to observe that gets in the way, that creates the distinction between my reality, and the internet?

That I feel comfortable with my ability to judge the legitimacy of someone's reaction to something I say or do in the big wide world, in which a digitised thumbs up doesn't surmise. Or perhaps the ease of which said thumbs up, and the lack thereof, is available not only disappoints, but frustrates me, in that the time and energy and affection I put into things like my musical creations, is not worthy of something so perceptively benign?

That's where the vision to pander to the generalised lack of attention span across most consumers on the internet comes in, but in doing so, I wouldn't be true to myself. In that, when I first started making music, I used to make 6 or 7 minute long songs, because I was overindulging in the passages that I created, enjoyed them a bit too much, and so put them in much longer than was necessary. So it was understandable when people wouldn't listen to it.

There's a reason that 'radio friendly' versions of songs exist, in the sense of being condensed to about 3 minutes, and when the term 'commercial viability' is used to explain that, it really comes down to attention span that affects accessibility.

So in comes more manufactured internal pressure in making music, that I start with a view to be catchy but condensed, instead of indulging in the passion of it, like I really should be. Becoming so overcome with insecurities in the very instant of the conceptualisation to create, before I even begin to create.

Perhaps I'm not as secure as I claim to be, that I've taken my insecurities from reality, and displaced them into something else to better have a sense of control, and that my notions of confidence, and the confidence I emit, is actually an illusion by way of trying to function on a normal level.

Perhaps it's just another excuse to deflect from my lack of motivation and inspiration, and a way of justifying to myself why I'm incapable, or could it even be my brain telling me that actually I'm not cut out for creativity, and the justification is actually protecting me from the truth of my incapability, that maybe my talent doesn't match up to my passion, that maybe I'm not good at it...Or is that what my depressive brain monkies want me to think in their consistent effort to keep me down?

Is it also possible that in my efforts over the years, and continued effort, to present myself as mentally healthy, and battle my demons with a deliberately conscious effort grounded in an intellectual approach, that by the time I want to devote my energies to that which I claim to be so invested in, that the stamina for it has depleted, used elsewhere, like keeping a steady job so I can survive the societal expectations of taxation til death.

Ultimately this is all a massive overthinking cycle, and perhaps I am just looking too deeply into a representation of my online self. That yes, people will judge me for what I post, and if I post something not in line with what I normally would. But all the same, I am judging people too. Social media allows us that safety to judge and scrutinise those we connect with without the fear of recourse or remorse, my over consciousness of the two-facedness of the internet clearly irks my conscience and id to the point of shut down and inactivity, and I do have to wonder if others are this obsessively, destructively, contemplative over their internet shares, or is it just me?

I guess my insecurities never diminished, they just found a new place to live.


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