Unsubscribe Me!

by Sara Schwartz Gluck, LCSW

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Anyone else out there receive dozens of emails like this each day? As a professional who regularly checks my email on my phone, it is incredibly frustrating to have to sift through junk in order to find the important messages. The other day my colleague, watching me frown as I swiped away at my phone, recommended an app that would help limit junk mail. I excitedly downloaded unroll.me and signed right up. Then a really strange thing happened. The next morning, I woke up to only seven emails instead of the usual 42. I felt a little twinge of rejection. Somewhere deep down I actually missed the dinging of my phone and the barrage of emails. It was like feeling my popularity status go down.

This phenomenon fascinates me, as I see the dependence on electronic communication in my daily practice of psychotherapy – it’s evident in clients of all ages. A colleague of mine, who teaches high school students, recently told me about an app that can be programmed to send fake text messages to your phone, so that when you are out with your friends you can show that you are popular through constant text notifications. This app has over 1 million downloads! Think about this for a minute. Over 1 million people have downloaded an app that helps them create the illusion of being wanted, being accepted, being popular. Such is the allure of the electronic message notification- it has the power to validate our importance as humans beings in this vast and increasingly impersonal universe.

I believe that the only answer is to find validation and acceptance within ourselves. We can feel shame about our dependence on these artificial ego boosts. Or we could learn to embrace ourselves just as we are, and then to find joy in real human connection. To quote Walt Whitman, “I exist as I am, that is enough, If no other in the world be aware, I sit content, And if each and all be aware, I sit content.”

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