Musings Part III: The Challenge to Grow
Social media reflects the state of the modern world. It is an arena of data mining, so long as people continue to post representations of their visceral responses to all the little things in life. Data mining the seemingly innocent indicators of individual and collective desire, and the behaviors corresponding to them facilitates the structuring of marketing strategies by individuals and groups invested in doing so. We are told this is to more efficiently promote goods and services people want. It’s just the good old free market at work.
The darker side, of course, is the mapping of the internet user’s behavioral spectrum in order to establish set pathways of stimulus/response. Encouraging creative discourse and problem solving do not quite fit within the parameters of that agenda, where it clashes with the interests of its promoters.
Social media could be a conduit of illumination and problem solving far in advance of real-world alternatives, at least as far as the planning stages go. I would say it is by design that such is not the case. Manipulated or not, social media tends to reflect the state of many current conditions of human society, especially if one broadens one’s horizons of interaction to encompass as much variety as comfortably viable before the friction of incompatible expression, belief and preference tears the situation apart.
The fine line between open-minded social variety and finding one’s self on a battle field of conflicting in-groups is a blurry one. It is, however, worth stickling one’s neck out on social chopping blocks if there is a chance to experience firsthand the statistics of where others are coming from.
That is one reason to refrain from bitching- too much- about the internet and all it involves. Even lies and half-truths can be valuable teachers. They tell us about the neurotic, the deceiver, the bright smile concealing a shady agenda, and about ourselves and the weaknesses we hold from the light of day. We are challenged to be aware, and that’s the hard part. The harder part is doing something about it that counts; something that nourishes our integrity rather than compromising it.
In discerning the ins and outs of online human nature, no amount of talking is going to change the beliefs people hold. Life does that. Discussions, however, can supply us with a field of alternative conception when life finally reveals that it’s time to reconsider things. Or discussions can provide a field of resistance and inertia so we chicken out and run back to all the familiar shit we had just realized sucks.
If someone’s beliefs, views or attitudes are such that they clash with my sense of integrity- not the same as simply disagreeing with them- I let them be. We have enough violence in the world. Getting rabid in a virtual environment is just demeaning, especially when we all have the option to step back and chill out.
If there is a point of contact or common ground, on the other hand, I focus on that. It is funny how social media and discussion forums have gone such a long way to teach me diplomacy. If only for that the internet has been invaluable to me.
In addition, sometimes I find myself feeling psychological harmony with people where there is no sensate connection other than words on a screen. In that feeling lie the revelations, that never get old, of how much well-being is dependent on solidarity with our fellow humans, and how deprived most of us are in lives diminished without it.
The value of human solidarity might be obvious in theory, and even in terms of off-line experience. Demonstrations, rallies, even parties and celebrations attest to that. It so happens, however, that in our information age crowds of people are a few keystrokes away all the time. And as we seek those who are like-minded, we may have to wade through swamps of communication dissonance that might even bring up issues from the past or just latent sensitivities we would rather not face.
Just as solidarity is healthy and empowering, social dissonance weakens us with one exception: the predatory personality. This would be one who projects their inner dissonance onto the world as a means to experience empowerment by witnessing the weakening or psychological turmoil of others.
We can, through some misadventure, learn to identify such individuals and avoid them. It is far more difficult, however, to deal with people who mean well, but in one way or another are in denial of a specialized form of dissonant projection.
That latter statement is not describing a disease. It’s really just the nature of being human, living in a society of artifice and trauma, and mired in the confusion of layers and layers of distortions, lies and out of context facts. The usual symptom is experiencing views and beliefs pushed in one’s direction that don’t resonate with one’s sense of right, even though they may make sense, or reflect common (proprietary) sense.
Confronting that kind of pressure can lead to a spectrum of choices that make us pray psychological manipulation on a number of levels. Coping mechanisms can include embracing relativism for the sake of keeping the peace, and raising the banner of our pet peeve to crusade against a world populated by infidels of one sort or another.
We may want to remain “correct”. We may want to vent, but still hold on to our precious integrity and sense that we are “good”. We may end up caring too much what other people think, yet still avoid considering just how much pain and constriction sensitivity to collective consensus is causing us.
If we are of the ilk that desires to see positive change. If we are willing to challenge the flow of mass correctness, there is much to learn and much to be done. Swimming against the current requires more strength than the average individual can manage these days. Otherwise it would be a common occurrence, one that I must be blind not to see. The good news is that strength can be cultivated. How to stand and how to proceed can be cultivated. Courage to liberate ourselves from the rut of familiarity can be cultivated.
Clouded vision and clouded heart will begin clearing when we stand by options and views because they come from a place that is genuine regardless of how vulnerable that feels at first. Persistence in such commitment transforms a person to a pillar of strength without their demanding attention or some form of psychological ‘tribute’. Then one is a force of inspiration and experiences the power and possibility of the modern online social medium.