The Falsehood of Virtual Connection | Teen Ink

The Falsehood of Virtual Connection

June 12, 2021
By LaraNic BRONZE, Barrington, Rhode Island
LaraNic BRONZE, Barrington, Rhode Island
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In Melissa Broder’s, “So Sad Today: Personal Essays,” Broder explores many of the lessons which have been learned in the past year more than ever. The impact of our online lives on our real lives is delineated and breaks down the downfall of our world which has become entirely immersed in what we deem as the necessity to stay in touch.  

“The Internet has given me the dopamine, attention, ampliciation, connection, and escape I seek. It has also distracted me, disappointed me, paralyzed me and catalyzed a false sense of self… It has increased my solipsism and made me even more incapable of coping with reality” (Broder).  In our age of human connection having been built off of the internet for an entire year, I find this reflection of its value to us is appropriate as we bridge the gap between true connection versus interaction. The artificial interaction taking place online may relieve our loneliness for a short period of time, but real connection can only occur with the most authentic version of oneself- the opposite of what is portrayed on the internet. The attention span depletion shows this incapability, which Broder mentions we have, for coping with reality; we become out of touch with the virtue of patience. When everything online can be so staged and every post is a performance piece crafted to appear as if it were authentic, our self awareness crumbles because our awareness of others is lost. The new version of, “you will never look back and wish you had spent more time in the office” is, “you will never look back and wish you had spent more time online.” The offline world was shut down in the pandemic and we clung to the aesthetically pleasing ‘reality’ handed to us through our phone screens. We were grasping for straws in terms of human connection. We depended on our capacity for escapism through different forms of media. The reality then presented in front of us became a nightmare compared to the alternative realities available at our fingertips. Lockdown forced us to spend far more time with ourselves than ever before, this solitude brought self-acceptance for some while for others it brought solipsism, as Broder describes. The real world felt as though it should be a reach away through our television and phone screens, our windows and doors to the outside, but it was entirely unavailable. 

Broder further expresses her dissatisfaction with virtual connection as she writes, “I also know that being a very sensitive person on this planet is painful and some of us are built like sieves, or have holes where any external validation just pours right through and we never get full, and I also know it’s ultimately an inside job anyway and no amount of external validation will ever be enough”(Broder). Previous insecurities were brought out with only our company. Those that had relied on others to define them or provide them with the external validation needed, it became blindingly clear that this would never amount to anything or fill any void. The comparison to a human being’s weaknesses acting as a sieve perfectly sums up how it can feel to be drained from our own mind’s torment. Broder’s attention to the role which sensitivity often plays in how we react and feel in certain situations is entirely relevant as her recognition that self validation is indeed something to be accomplished within oneself. She calls it a job because that is what it can often feel like to be working so hard at but the difficulty is not in the work itself but the lack of recognition from others for that work. If one is already in need of external validation and particularly sensitive, forcing oneself to put the energy into themselves without results right away or any motivator apart from one’s own will is as tricky as it sounds. It all stems from our notion of instant gratification. I’m sure if we had all been raised in a more spiritual society with priorities in self-acceptance and our relationship with ourselves, we would all be feeling quite different about this topic. Maybe if we had been raised on the fruits of self care, exploration, gratitude, and self worth, we would not be suffering from our lack of the principles  which were impounded into us: work obsession, confining rules, and monetary worth in our incessant need to ‘climb the ladder.’ But who built the ladder? Wasn’t it the egotistical manipulative capitalists  that created this tragic internet we speak so dearly about? We were in fact not built like sieves, only molded so to benefit the agendas of those that exploit us. Returning to my original stance on our current reality, as the world opens up, we must remain as dedicated to ourselves as we have ever been. 

When the FOMO returns and the in person comparison piles up alongside online comparison, let us look within. After all, our perceptions of others are merely reflections of ourselves. One’s dislike for another says far more about one disliking than it does about the one being disliked. External validation will indeed never be enough. And neither will mindless internet interactions. Improve yourself for the very reasons of coping with reality, the sanity, the self recognition, the relationships built on virtue rather than pleasure or utility. Being a sensitive person is hardly a disadvantage when humanity comes from empathy. So follow the journey which presents itself. Even once COVID-19 tensions died down, alternate power tensions arose. There is no time like the present to delete social media and throw away your phone never to be seen again. If that’s your calling. If not, take the steps away from the internet toward our present world. No more timelines, feeds, for you pages, explore pages, recommended videos, suggested finds, or inadequate responses. Because while the internet tried to break us, the real world gave us joy, experiences, meaningful relationships, and grounding which we seek. 


Works Cited

Broder, Melissa. So Sad Today: Personal Essays. Scribe, 2017. Accessed 4 June 2021.

The author's comments:

This is a reflective essay related to the disconnect many felt toward others during the lockdowns of COVID-19. 

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