One of the less talked-about benefits of social media is how it has opened up a whole new world for passive aggressive types. These days, if you're angry with someone you can just put a thinly-veiled reference to that person on Facebook and wait for the penny to drop at their end. Or, just Instagram a picture of your crying face and wait for the sad-faced emoji-laden solicitous comments to start appearing below. Back in the day, if you wanted the world to know you were in pain you just had to take loads of drugs and derail your life publicly.
Some years back I got completely hooked on the HBO box set of The Sopranos. I was a little bit in love with Tony Soprano (as, it turned out, were many of my friends). Yes, he was a misogynist with psychopathic tendencies, but there was also something vulnerable and beautiful about him. I thought the same thing about Stringer Bell in The Wire. I once thought it about Grant Mitchell.
I would excuse Tony Soprano's shocking acts of violence (remember the adversary's tooth that he picked from the hem of his trousers during a meeting at his son's school?) whilst thinking that they should bring back the death penalty for men who didn't text back within an allocated period of acceptable time.
I would forgive him for trying to kill his own mother whilst thinking that I would like to kill a driver that didn't let me into a line of traffic.
I could see the pain in Tony Soprano that caused his actions to drive others to suicide, whilst being totally unable to concede that a grumpy shop assistant might just be having their own bad day. I just wanted to punch them in the face instead.
Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this. People are so much easier to understand in pixel form, when they have a clearly outlined synopsis attached to their 'story' or on some social media feed with how their day is going SPELLED OUT (#badday #nooneevertoldmeitwouldbethishard). This is in no way a new phenomenon- people have been easier to understand in literature and onstage for centuries, and film for over 100 years. Social media just gives us the opportunity to be in a continuous state of dramatic tension while the world looks on.
I'm not saying that we should avoid Twitter, or crying on social media, or watching TV- stories, after all, are how we learn about what it means to be human, and it's my hope that The Wire will one day be on university curricula. It really is better than Shakespeare, and I say this as someone who studied him at both A Level and degree level.
But what I am saying is that I would hate life to get to the stage where someone suffering from depression has to launch a kickstarter campaign to send themselves to Disneyland just to get a little help from their friends. Where old people have to learn the intricacies of Firefox (or the intricacies of hardware, for that matter) for their communities to recognise that they are struggling to get their shopping done. Or for people who feel lonely to have to write a short film and get an actor who resembles them to play themselves looking forlorn, before giving copies to their friends. No one wants that kind of meta fiction.
In some way, shape or form, we are all those girls on Snapchat with mascara running down their cheeks. We're all the people who wonder what the bloody point of it all is sometimes, whether we stick quotes to that effect on Facebook or not. And we can all be a little bit Tony Soprano, at least in thought. Perhaps this is something to hold on to as we watch each other going about our days. Or watching our HBO Box sets. Did someone say 'Game of Thrones'?