Anxiety, projections and quantitative affection

Anxiety is a bitch. It’s a term that is underestimated because of how commonly it’s thrown around. At first, I was susceptible to this, but observation, listening and a lot of reflection made me realise that it anxiety is not overused – it’s a generational issue.

Things are moving faster than us. Societal norms are changing faster than we can adapt and analyse. Amateurs are more licensed to speak, giving themselves an online platform and measure their “guides” or “tips” on their own experiences and a few others around them. The way we measure their competency is through the amount of followers they have.

The way we measure our interpersonal relationships are through the amount of texts we receive from others, or how many heart emojis they send us. Through the amount of times a day they tag us in funny Facebook and Instagram posts, which, yes may have an element of truth – I personally tag my best friends in Facebook posts when I remember them, but only if your online interpersonal relationships are on par with your real life ones.

We all know this is shallow and inaccurate, but we can’t help falling into the trap. We want the buzz. We want to look at our phone screens and feel special, almost as though what we see in our notifications define what we are worth. With no textbook approach, and little guidance, we become so engulfed in socialising behind the phone screen that we forget the basic rules of human contact.

Because this is so new to us as a species, in many ways, we are the lab-rats of digital communication. Without realising, we skip fundamental steps that we need to build a strong foundation in our relationships. In the dating realm, there has been a surge of people using dating apps over the past year. When Tinder first came out, it was a subject of debate and ridicule. Now, it’s completely normal to talk to friends and co-workers about going on a “tinder-date”, or religious/ethnic alternatives to the app.

I’ve found that those who use these apps tend to forget that it takes time for friendships and relationships to blossom. Because the prospective couple showed interest through a two-dimensional swipe, they enter the date either with the intention of a quick hookup, or to see if a person is suitable for long term relationship goals or marriage.

With the latter, it’s easy to be fooled. It’s easy to be paranoid about what may happen later and compulsively quantify by measuring affection and interest through texts, emojis and tags. At the same time, it’s easy to miss red flags when you’re being showered with attention. It’s hard to admit that something may be fishy when someone texts you “miss you beautiful” after the first date within two minutes of leaving you (read about love bombing).

At the same time, it’s hard to believe a person likes you after a few days of not talking after a first date. Yes, there should be contact after a date, yes it is true that courtesy suggests we must message shortly after, but there does not need to be constant communication the following days on a daily, or hourly basis. Relax.

It’s hard, especially with anxiety. But we must remember that anxieties and over-expectations lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Document your past mistakes, document your trauma. If you have a history of failed relationships or feel like you’re “attracting one type of person”, you need to analyse your emotional habits and needs at the start of a relationship. A pattern emerges, usually.

A lot of the time, people crave that surge of emotions at the start and those who provide it are genuinely toxic people who can fulfil your wish to feel addicted to a human, but do not continue.

Sometimes, that person you’re breaking your toxic cycle with may not be “the one”, you may truly lose contact in a few weeks, but it’s not the end of the world. The buildup and anxiety towards the end is a lot more painful and scary than the end itself. We know how we feel now, we know, despite not wanting to admit, why we feel how we feel, but we will never know how we feel in the future. We will never know what facts will come forward, or how our emotions will either suddenly or gradually change.

It will be okay. Life moves slower than your megabytes. Give yourself time. Allow foundations to solidify.

Allow yourself to break out of the cycle and if you aren’t being given the amount of attention you want at the start, don’t be so quick to break it off, especially if you had a good time in real life… unless you plan on saying your wedding vows by WhatsApp using emojis, of course.

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