It has often been said that social media avatars are a perfected version of the people behind them and that this elicits the dismay of whoever compares themselves to that avatar and this contributes to numerous psychological maladies. There is, however, another aspect of the avatar that likewise contributes to such maladies and that is what I would call platonic porn. Pornography is blamed for high expectations in sexual relationships and ultimately the disintegration of those relationships over unmet expectations. In addition to the decline in sexual relationships and dating there has been, as mentioned on this blog before, a sharp decline in platonic friendships. There are many reasons for that but one of them is likely that when people spend most of their days on social media, they get people devoid of blemishes and indictments. Yet, in the flesh, these things cannot be avoided. All people are toxic compared to the angels of social media avatars.
People are so accustomed to perfection in the personalities they come across every hour on their social media that the real thing is disturbing and strange when they see it. After the niceties of initial contact are exhausted and the earnestness and vulnerability of true friendship become necessary, people often run. That might be expected if their private life and history is truly dark but if someone has a breastfeeding fetish or is into scatological humor. That’s not disturbing to people who have experienced the broad spectrum of the human condition but it is to people who have lived insular social lives within their clique and otherwise get their exploration into human culture through their social media. I come from the hard Bernie left and lean toward the culturally libertarian side of it. The Burning Man side of it. Not the ultra-PC side of it. And I come from Special Ed. I have a lot of patience and appreciation for weird. From foot fetishes to furry fandom people to people being open about self-harm to people who like dressing up in upscale period costume to anime weebs to most subcultures and subtypes so long as they are not dark or inhuman, I can dig it.
That’s not the case for most people and it is ever decreasing. That’s a lot of the reason there is a loneliness epidemic. People cannot be friends if they are afraid of the first unnerving trait in another person’s life. Nobody is normal except in public like on social media ergo everyone is strange when you meet them in person. That might be everyone proper or everyone outside of one’s immediate clique. In either case, it severely limits the breadth of friends available to any particular person. Friendship is built on love and a love that may or may not be unconditional. Everyone deserves a minimal agape that is unconditional but that’s not a full fraternal love. Even if it isn’t unconditional beyond the basic type you have for someone as a sibling in the human family, it still has to be beyond what would make you dislike them. That your love for someone is stronger than how much you like them. People are forgetting how to love each other, how to see someone’s soul after you’ve seen the scars on their skin.
If people looked around to study humanity, they would find a species that looked a lot dirtier than the species spelled out by the photons shot from the LEDs of their devices. They would discover that everyone has a past which, if exposed, could bring down their life in a Jon Ronson-style vigilante horde of public shaming. Our society is far less forgiving than it used to be and it turns people into reputational monsters far too often. There is an old song from the 2000s, “Dirty Little Secret” by All American Rejects. A band who is a slightly less famous version of My Chemical Romance. It acknowledges what everyone should which is that every face is a façade and to live with each other we have to accept that and that the uncomfortable truths beneath every façade exist. That song was from 2005, a time when the majority of people’s interactions came from the flesh and not the internet and so, out of necessity, people had to learn to endure those points. You couldn’t be afraid of friendships because smartphones didn’t exist and Myspace didn’t have push notifications beyond its own webpages.
Today, we live in a world of strange strangers where everyone is scary and creepy, at least, that is how the average stranger is perceived. In a world where everyone is a freak, it is of utmost tragedy that we treat anyone like one. The organics. The humans of flesh. Are, by their nature, freaks. That doesn’t make them wrong. Lot’s of other things make them wrong but among our sins is not counted our idiosyncrasies that society judges us for. Yet, we see the platonic pornography of the LED screen and imagine a world where those fictional characters exist and could be our friends. They don’t exist and that being the case is why we have to develop a tolerance for the weirdness of humanity and love it and hope it loves us for our weirdness.