By Zach Strohecker, Sept. 28, 2021

How much information can the mind handle before it snaps? The age of information is upon us and it looks like we will know sooner rather than later.

The modern world has reached a stage where total integration of the internet into the lives of every member of society is the norm. In the past, this was a dream. Total interconnectivity, instant communication and access to limitless information — 400 years ago this was called the philosopher’s stone, an alchemist pipe dream only obtainable through magic.

Now, it is called a smartphone and completely affordable. Anyone can mainline stimulation overload.

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

What looked like freedom is actually an inescapable box with feedback loops distorting reality. The new reality is engagement. Where TV shrunk the conversation to sound bites, billions of people swiping, liking and commenting is pushing the average experience to a guttural noise.

All done in seconds without a second thought, these are the opinions and experiences everyone takes in daily: an exorbitant amount of information.

Think how many unique users’ posts you read in an hour, then think how many strangers you would have to interact with face-to-face to gain the equivalent information. It’s absurd.

If everyone you saw shouted out their ill-informed opinions with no regard for social decency, you would go insane.

But you say, “I’m not doing that. I just watch.”

That’s right; you take it in and living in a mad house can make you appear insane whether you like it or not.

Absorbing this amount of content is manifesting real-world consequences. According to a recent study published on Aug. 23, an outbreak of mental illness in teenagers exhibiting Tourette-like behaviors has been documented.

The term being suggested is “mass social-media induced illness” or MSMI. What makes this outbreak unique is the implication of episodes spreading solely through social media.

This mental illness comes about from an extreme parasocial relationship, or a relationship characterized by a celebrity-fan relationship. These teenagers are not developing Tourette’s Syndrome but are compulsively mimicking online influencers who are allegedly afflicted and show tics on stream.

The study states the following, “They can be viewed as the 21st century expression of a culture-bound stress reaction of our post-modern society emphasizing the uniqueness of individuals and valuing their alleged exceptionality, thus promoting attention-seeking behaviors and aggravating the permanent identity crisis of modern man.”

A straw will break the camel’s back.

I’ve seen family and friends become bitter and cold. A small personal choice becomes a dividing line in the sand between family and traitor. People are attached and hooked into a machine churning out mobs of people chanting slogans pitched by comedians posing as the voice of the people. Bitter fighting, tooth and nail, for the home team just so they can see themselves on the right side of history. It’s a distorted perception and people rest their identity on it.

Our favorite deadly sin is envy. On social media everyone is just another user, and it creates an illusion of parity. Online, everyone is the next-door neighbor with the better car, the nicer house and the hotter wife.

Yet, it’s a façade and everyone knows that, but somehow you can’t help but feel inadequate. We cope by modeling online personas acting out fantasies as the crusader, the model or the entertainer.

Brave, compassionate and always put together, the screen becomes the mask that feels most comfortable.

A technology supposed to connect every human on the planet paradoxically leads to a totally isolated world. The world just went through a test. Can we still function as a society if we don’t leave our houses and let the digital distortion become the main reality?

It turns out we can and we might not go back. Life does not happen in flesh and blood anymore. Trends, celebrity, conversation and culture all happen online, and many people see it as a far more interesting place than the outside world.

Everyone is addicted to their phones and the worlds they lead to. It’s destroying our enjoyment of subtler things and no one can say they feel fulfilled as depression rates skyrocket.

These growing pains are why the world must face reality. It is time to pull the plug.

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