We live in crazy times. These days, social realities are generated in the virtual world. An era of snappy chatter applications – Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and House-party – where one finds happiness in strangers. Today’s generation would not be able to imagine life without the internet. Life before Facebook and Snapchat has ceased to exist in our lived realities. Life without a gaze at mobile-screen would seem as dull as the glance at a starless gloomy sky.
In An Era of Social Media
We live in an era where real space is shrinking like never before. A decade ago, if one were asked whether they would talk to a stranger on Facebook, the answer would have an induced element of scepticism. In today’s world, we meet people and un-meet them within a few seconds. Instagram grapples with our narcissistic-self and inordinate confidence. It is where lies become truth, relationships are prefect, family members are blocked, and everyone shows off the best of their lives. All through the day, we would scroll through the feed, and feel real.
As much as, we enjoy sliding into the messages of others, we are also dealing with our inability to access a reality. We are, therefore, attempting to feel happy in the virtual world. You know how it goes: you slide into a DM of a person that you would like to talk to and begin your wait game. Even as you expect a ‘hi’ from the other end, you do not feel a thing about it. Within those 10 minutes of exchange of words, you open up about your personal, detailed stories about how your life should be. Half an hour into the conversation, you are expressing your melancholy about how your partners cheated on you, and what you did about it. And so on.
Finding Solace in Strangers
Realities have faded into an unexpected desire for the unknowns. In our quest to enjoy our virtual reality, we open up to the unknowns so much that we surrender our selves. To the unknowns, we convey our darkest fantasies, miserable ecstasy, and sad desires. We create stories for them about our lives that exist only in the imaginations. You convey to them, how much you hate your so-and-so friends. How much you would want to sleep with an erudite physics professor, who, you had until then restricted to your dreams. For the unknowns, we create realities and recreate them, just so they meet their perfect passion.
Why would we tell anything to the ones we do not know?
One reason would be that we cease to have any expectations from people that do not know us. We also feel secure for the reason that we do not know them or intend to know them. As a result, our insecurities are hidden in a toolbox that we would never wish to open. It is in this context, Malcolm Gladwell writes, “Sometimes the best conversations with strangers allow the stranger to remain a stranger.” The unknowns become our tool to deal with reality as it exists.
Keep Thy Stranger As A Stranger
Even as I began inquiring as to why one finds it easier to talk to the unknowns, someone on Instagram said, “Every new stranger will evoke a new identity in individuals. As a result, with every new stranger, a fresh identity of self is formed.” Someone else replied, “It enables you to explore a different surrounding and upbringing.” The stranger is like a clean slate. You can draw any version of yourself. A good friend of mine, wrote to me: “We find comfort in talking to a stranger, because, we can pretend to be someone we are not. And as humans, we have grown desperate and lonely. Thus, we will try and mould ourselves into someone that the stranger likes.”
It is crazy how much we love talking to the unknowns than our own friends. Unknowns don’t judge us; even when they do, we don’t care. If the Bible were to be reproduced, “Thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself,” would surely find its place. However, Matthew would have cautioned us in the next verse, “Keep thy stranger as a stranger.” With the unknowns, we always have an option of unknowing them. We could vent-out all day long, everything we want, and have a veto over the ‘block clause’. If the creeps come your way in the form of unknowns, which is far more likely, the block-option is a touch away.
We seek happiness in the unknowns. We tend to find another us in them. Or know how the other is different from us. Thus, a stranger always contains an element of surprise, rather a pleasant discomfort. We tend to portray our life as it exists or as we wished it to be. Through, such an exercise, we are put a smile on our faces and reserve our realities for the ones we know.