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Feeling guilty in a connected world

9 mins read

Days can appear to go by fast when you’re sat at a computer for hours. Those of you who play games, produce YouTube videos and streams, or simply play a game on Jackbox TV until the darkness of the night reveals the intense blue light that starts to hurt your eyes, making you turn the brightness down, will understand.

In a connected world, it is easy to feel as if we’re neglecting our social lives on the Internet. If you’re someone like me who feels like they can’t live without the crazy, informative, and sometimes toxic human invention that is the Internet, then most of us will fully empathise.

The days of texting on Nokia 3310s, and fiddling on your Tamagotchis are over. Jumping about on a pogo stick or having water pistol fights on hot summer days seems to be a thing of the past. Now we can use the Internet for almost anything, from social media, ordering your shopping, to paying your bills, or searching up the most obscure article on Wikipedia.

With all of the changes that these technological advancements have allowed, there is often an element of guilt soaring around in our heads somewhere. You may have forgotten to message someone back, because you saw a video on YouTube titled ‘Stop Doing These 5 Things’ or because you were meant to be up early the next day and found yourself online until the ungodly hours.

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Whatever it is, it’s easy to believe that we must be at fault for not thinking about other aspects of your life. Experiencing guilt because you think you’ve done something wrong is a common feeling some of us get. Now you wish you’d done those five things that the YouTube video taught you.

Cutting to the chase, that YouTube video is just one of thousands and thousands of other videos. That message you forgot to send, well, it might be because you had four or five other individual conversations going on at the same time.

Understandably, because the Internet has allowed for the creation of thousands of different online activities, it is easy for some of us to feel guilty if we sometimes forget to do one of those activities.

Another way to think about it would be when you walk into a room, but suddenly you’ve forgotten what you walked into that room for, because other thoughts have taken over (or simply because you had a brain fart).

Doing too much at once is often not a good thing. It leads to burning out. It leads to us feeling guilty when we get everything done except that one thing, and it starts to bother you.

But forgetfulness and guilt aren’t always intertwined. While it’s easy to forget things like where you left your keys or wallet, or people’s names when you introduce them, it’s also easy to feel as if we’re in the wrong because one person on the Internet said so.

One second we’re scrolling away on social media, the next we see a post with a lot of comments on it. Curious, we look at what the post is and it turns out to be a very heated debate based on subjectivity.

Are you wrong for not going vegan because the Internet said so? Are you a terrible person because you support civil rights that make other people fragile? Does your delicious, heartwarming cooking that you tweeted suck because Gordon Ramsay critiqued it?

Social media is full of posts, tweets, and other content which can easily drive some of us to feel a sense of guilt. Sometimes it can even be as subtle as ‘no excuses, be there or be square’ if you’re like me and you interpret things a bit differently, but you’re busy doing other things.

Feeling guilty in a connected world is a common feeling most of us will endure deep inside. You may be conscious of what you post to the point you need to think about it, who you tag in case they said they can’t let their work see, where you are in case you forgot to tell someone where you’re going. All of this can make one’s experience online that much harder.

It’s important to remember that you are typing your thoughts and feelings into a technological device containing a psychological barrier from the outside world. A foot isn’t going to pop out of that screen to give you a kick up the backside, and your friend’s face isn’t going to pop out exclaiming that you forgot to message them, and that guy on a YouTube video isn’t going to magically materialise and tell you you’re wrong.

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Very often, if someone is annoyed at us, they will make that annoyance known. But due to the huge complexities of the Internet and the amount of people on social media that might be trying to socialise right now, the chances of someone being annoyed because you forgot to message them are slim.

So don’t worry if you do feel guilty for not doing so. It might be that you are just super tired from your day and need to sleep. Your friend isn’t going to go away because you need a bit of time to yourself. That’s something I’ve always had people tell me.

The other beautiful thing is that even if you do feel guilty, your friends are there for you to reach out to. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell them sorry for not messaging, or sorry for doing this one thing wrong. When compared to doing something wrong in the eyes of the law, this doesn’t even make up the ingredients of the cake.

But the icing that must go on the top of the cake is that it’s okay to take time to yourself. It’s okay to take breaks from social media. It’s okay to look up something you wish you’d known before. It’s okay to do all of these things, for you.

The connected world doesn’t have to be a hot and stuffy sports hall where you’re under pressure to get a good grade on the 2-3 hour examination that you simply have to pass to progress on to the next year.

But the connected world can be that huge area of green recreational ground, providing a sense of liberation and allowing you time and space to do what’s best for you.

Featured image: energepic.com

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