F. Scott Fitzgerald is the modern romantic writer with whom I identify the most of all writers. His views of the world are tragic and graceful, full of empathy and pain, seduction and death. The story of Mr. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is one of sadness and love as his wife, Zelda, was both crazy and adored completely by him. Mr. Fitzgerald knew pain and could elegantly write about the turmoils of being an individual in the American Jazz age.
Perhaps that is what makes a good writer: personally experienced pain and a lot of empathy, a tortured life and a creative imagination. One does not have to experience the pain directly to be influenced by it. A writer can place themselves in the shoes of the tortured, the lonely, and the unloved. We can create characters who exist in our minds based upon the people we have met and the things we have experienced. Every person is a story to be written and there are no happy stories if they are written for long enough.
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
Jay Gatsby of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby, held giant parties and was admired by everyone but understood by only one. Mr. Gatsby died very alone, chasing a future that would never exist and missing the beauty of the moment in which he lived.
Perhaps there is a reason we are so wrapped up in social media and the fake internet connections of the world. There is no sadness on Instagram and there is no loneliness on Facebook. Everyone is included; everyone is surrounded by a false sense of belonging and there is an ignorance of the loneliness and sadness that follows every individual throughout their life. The screens of our tablets and computers and smartphones brighten our eyes and our minds with fake connections that truly do not matter. So like Jay Gatsby, no one comes to our funerals because what we had with everyone was a superficial ploy to trick ourselves into thinking someone cared. Daisy never cared about Jay. Social media is a giant Gatsby party with no connections or experiences that matter in the light of day.
Robin Dunbar, a British psychologist and anthropologist, has a theory that humans are capable of maintaining relationships with 5-15-150-500-1500 people. 5 intimates, 15 friends, 150 dinner party attendees, 500 acquaintances with whom we can exchange small talk in hallways, and 1500 people whose faces we can remember. Social media is changing that VIEW, not the reality, but the idea that we can maintain and should maintain relationships with far more people than is healthy for our cognitive well-being.
The worst part of social media is that the friendships don’t actually exist. Why? Because friendships are hard to maintain. The time, energy, emotional and intellectual connection required to keep a friend in the 5 and 15 range is difficult. Friendship is a constant ebb and flow that struggles against the tides of life. Social media has allowed friendships to no longer require the heartache and the struggle of maintaining a real relationship. There is only an underlying and faint emotional connection with upwards of 5,000 people through social media.
For those of us with higher levels of empathy, for the writers and the romantics and the romantic writers, this exposure to so many people who actually do not care about you is draining. I’m not saying they wish you active harm, but these people do not care about you. The 5 and the 15 do. Everyone else? You are a glance in the hallways of life and nothing more than a flicker on a screen.
I’m not saying I don’t care about Shelly from HR’s children, but her existence does not matter. When I’m crying alone at night because a close friend was diagnosed with cancer and has 10 months to live, that is it: I am alone. Social media brings in more sadness and joy than I can handle through continued connections, and people who don’t matter are kept in my life through a superficial existence… They are not allowed to fade into the distance as they should. The sadness and romance of the people I don’t interact with intimately, with people who don’t care, is too much for me to handle because I care too much.
So perhaps to save my empathetic soul, I’ll force people to fade into the 500-1500 range and not unlike Jay Gatsby, I will be celebrated in death by a few intimates who actually cared. I will not live by the false social media admiration of the 1500+ Gatsby party-goers.