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  • Samuel Fogel


Written By: Samuel Fogel

It’s hard to know how to feel sometimes. Internal emotions get convoluted, your perception gets muddled with countless stimuli ranging from a backlog of knowledge and experiences from your distant past to whether or not it’s raining on this particular day. I’m not receiving any job offers. It’s because they found a better applicant. Or is it because I’m a loser whose talent is arranged in flukes and lucky breaks? Is it because there are too many nepotistic tendrils in the market? I spoke up in a lecture and a few students looked at me strangely. I don’t think what I said was all that inflammatory. It must be because I disgust them, my face unbearable to look at. Or is it because it’s at 9 in the morning and the rest of them are tired and unresponsive?

There are so many things to take into consideration at all times, it’s hard to keep your head in check and your anxieties in check. I recently spoke with a friend dealing with hard times, the loss of a family member. He’s in despair one moment but content another. Sometimes he rages, other times he feels elated that the experience is mostly done with. Life gets overwhelming. Profound experiences jockey for dominance in your psyche with the most minute grievances. This problem is compounded by modernity. When I say modernity, I really mean this hyper-specific sliver of time marked by access to the internet.

It’s almost trite to talk about how much the internet negatively affects people and their mental health, but I think the damage is more profound than just not being able to go to Fiji like your pampered influencer friend can. There’s an overwhelming horror to just how much information you see and absorb on a daily basis. Dave Chappele is a NIMBY. Google office workers showed up to work today and half of them were laid off. Goku slams Naruto, no diff. Steven Crowder shows his greasy pustule-addled face to complain about his contract with the Daily Wire. Square Enix makes another anti-consumer decision. Check out this Ray Peat playlist (#visionsofpeatworld)! So much garbage and no tools to sift through it.

How the fuck am I supposed to have a well-educated opinion on both the Sri Lankan economic collapse and which specific American diplomats are supposed to be sent to the Hague? At no other point in history have people had so much access to information. Despite this, however, people continue to be idiodic losers with little more to say than “L” or “W”. It’s infuriating that our collective knowledge can extend and extend ad infinitum but less and less of it seems to be sticking. Who can blame them, though? It’s enough to make somebody go crazy. The tonal whiplash of scrolling through TikTok could put me in a hospital.

From someone showing how they do their makeup to Rothschild conspiracies to a 14-year-old pretending to be a paranoid schizophrenic. A digital footprint will last forever but it’s impossible to say if it will be trampled over or not.

The aphorism of “don’t compare yourself to other people” may indeed lessen your mental anguish, but it’s really hard not to when you have not only the plethora of influences telling you how they’re “financially successful at 23” or the celebrity authors or the pop stars, but the whole of human history to compare yourself to. I can read Henry Kissinger’s undergraduate thesis and understand how he was able to manipulate power so successfully in words more elegant than mine.

It’s crushing to know that my life is comparatively meaningless at 21. It makes me want to cry, to bawl my eyes out. I want to sob and throw myself into a river. My sense of self is destroyed and destroyed and destroyed over and over and over again. My struggles are meaningless and my ideas are as profound as that of an intestinal worm’s. All the markers of my personality are marked by consumerism, little checkboxes that Facebook AdSense can mark off and feed me shit I’m more likely to buy. The hegemony of “big tech” and digitalization degrades me into grains of sand that can be fed through the narrow neck of an hourglass, consuming until I die and am left behind.

Sometimes I feel like my talents, veritable or not, are obsolete in the age of the internet. People are more responsive to sensory stimuli befitting of a baby than anything requiring actual engagement. Musicians will be swept under the rug in favor of virality, artists will go unnoticed because they don’t post pornography to Twitter, and writers will be rendered pointless in an age where 140 characters can be too much.

Not to mention all of the AI bullshit that’s been the topic of discussion lately. We can cope by saying art necessitates a human element of pathos, but the diehard enthusiasts that consider themselves “aesthetes'' for punching in a variety of parameters into DALL·E 2 proves that some people will just keep consuming garbage. Maybe I’m expecting too little of people. I don’t doubt that, actually, but sometimes your gut reaction is what’s strongest.

James Baldwin said in an interview with TIME that “you think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read”. Of course, we aren’t doing as much reading these days as I’d like, but it’s important to contextualize and step back every once in a while. What plagues me might be unique in human history, the broader societal context may contain something fundamentally different from what it did even a few decades ago, but the basal feelings are all the same. Inadequacy, confusion, incertitude, anything I can feel has been felt before by countless other people. 

Despite the interconnectivity, the internet offers us it can be hard not to feel so insular and separated. A motivating philosophy I’ve always tried to maintain is one of self-acceptance. Despite sometimes being an ardent opponent of the concept, at least internally, I think we live in an age of unprecedented expectations. 

Seeing so many accomplished people all the time disconnects us from what’s real. We all think we should be doing more, achieving higher accolades, and making more money. We convert the stimuli of thirst traps and ego flexing into a reification of an unachievable hierarchy. Sometimes it’s okay to just be you. It’s not a sin to coast or to spend a bit of time in an “unproductive manner”. The landscape of life is hard to navigate these days. Make sure you don’t get lost in the brush.


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