The Virtual Loser

I am not a real loser, but I feel like one.

By all accounts, I am very fortunate and by American standards I am a poster child for a successful immigrant who played by the rules, worked hard and became a good and productive citizen of this great country of ours.

Yet for reasons beyond my comprehension, I no longer have any sense of accomplishment. If anything, I feel that whatever I have achieved is not good enough. There is more to do. There is more to accomplish. Look at the Kardashians!

We have a culture that values and rewards public performance, not introspection. Everyone is performing and not many of us are thinking unless, of course, you are Senator Tom Cotton who seems to be thinking for both Americans and Iranians.

It appears that we no longer have tolerance or patience for deep thoughts and meaningful conversations. We always have to be doing as opposed to being. The notion of self-cultivation is out of fashion, replaced by the neverending goal of cultivating more followers and "likes."

We live in a culture where everyone is a celebrity and purportedly famous, advertising their mundane and not so mundane daily activities to the world through Facebook and Twitter.

I, on the other hand, intentionally and decidedly do not have any presence whatsoever on the social media. Besides using emails for what I consider legitimate communication purposes, my interaction with the Internet is limited to reading the news (faithfully, I might add) and doing research; my relationship with social media is, let's say, non-existent as I am rather ambivalent about high-tech gadgetries.

I have a blackberry. No eyes rolling, please. I like its keyboard as it allows me to type long reports or emails, thank you very much. Anything else my Q10 Blackberry offers is irrelevant.

And I certainly do not want an iPhone as I refuse to have a device that knows more about me than I know about it.

I recently got a phone call from my cellphone provider offering to upgrade me to an iPhone for free since I have been such a faithful customer. When I told the salesperson that I liked my Blackberry and did not want to change it, he ventured, with an excited voice, to educate me about all the things my iPhone could do for me and all the apps that could make my life easier and more fun! When I told him that I was disinclined to trade my privacy with the convenience of these apps, and that beyond the issue I actually like my blackberry... Silence. Then he said "Ummm, okay." It was the strangest okay I have heard in a long time. The kind of oookaayyy you might hear from someone who just heard you say that you invented the Internet!

In this culture where everyone seems to be on Facebook, I am not (virtually) out and about.

I am always amused by people's reaction when they ask if I am on Facebook or whether I have an iPhone and I answer both questions with an emphatic NO. Nowadays people think there is something wrong with you if you are "not connected." My favorite next comment is the "how come?" with a "what's wrong with you" undertone.

How come? How about I do not want to be connected, damn it!

I like people, but I also cherish being alone in the quietness of my apartment. I like solitude. I like to read, think, reflect on what I have read and discuss it with friends whom I know physically rather than virtually, over long dinners where we enjoy a bottle of wine and the absence of gadgets. This is exactly what's wrong with me. I like actual human interactions that are private, real and serial. Not so 21st century?

No matter what I like, my real achievements seem increasingly hollow as I do not feel accomplished enough; whatever "enough" means... The reality is that I feel out of place in a culture that promotes excitement and extreme feelings; a culture that is full of "very."
Listening to people in the media, politics or even my neighborhood, I am always intrigued by the repetition of the word "very" in everything; very angry, very happy, very sad, very exciting, very late, very loving, very stupid, etc. I can't help but think what's wrong with me? Why I am not feeling "very" anything.

In the standards of the virtual world, I am clearly a loser as I have not "established" myself, staked my virtual territory and amassed a respectable "enough" following. I have come to realize that my discomfort stems from a profound question: Are my accomplishments in the real world not good enough unless they are advertised to and "liked" by the virtual world?