[WARNING: This is a self-indulgent series of posts in lieu of getting actual help. It’ll probably just be irritating to anyone else]
We live in a world of constant change. Technological advancements now come at such a speed that society has to constantly adjust to keep up with things.
Life is consequently fast, and increasingly unstable. There are far fewer certainties in life (other than the final certainty).
There are also far more choices. Far more options. Even a century ago, the life you were born into could have decided the course of your future. It may have been possible to fight for a different one, if you knew what you wanted.
Now, provided you live in the right place, your options are far more vast. So vast that decision anxiety can take hold. With so many options, how can you choose one? Can you even choose one, or do you simply stumble into something and get stuck there, either growing comfortable or suffering in silence?
And if you do choose a future, will that choice still be valid in a year’s time? Maybe less.
Given such permeable foundations, is it even possible for many to have a coherent sense of identity. There’s certainly less likely to be anything as clear cut as they might have had a century earlier. Even if they hated what they were, they knew what it was. An identity you hate at least gives you something to rebel against.
I have trouble seeing any role in society I could do, anyway. I was useless at interviews because (at least in part) I’m no good at faking enthusiasm. Why should I, anyway? Most jobs seem so pointless. Being a cog in the machine, producing something – goods or service – to ultimately keep the machine going. Necessary for the continuation of society, but I see no gratification to be derived from it. Only a wage, to continue living a pointless life, while being encouraged to produce more cogs for the continuation of the machine.
I’ve never seen how that life could be lived. I tried it. Waiting for it to somehow settle in, if only by routine dulling down my thoughts. But the pointlessness of it never went away.
Not that life without it is any easier. But at least writing offers more of a distraction from the sheer horror of existence. Even this only helps keep my final collapse at bay while my mind is occupied.
But society is increasingly under stress from the incessant rate of change. And far wider than it was a century ago.
Communications has made the world virtually smaller, and put us in the position where we can have more in common with someone on the far side of the world who shares our worldview, than with our neighbours (who not so long ago could well have had roles not that dissimilar to our own). And we can have more communication with that distant person. This obviously has an effect on the destabilisation of local communities, especially among the young.
Personally, I don’t find online communications the same. I know it offers a sense of community that can be hard to find if you’re geographically isolated from others sharing your interests, and maybe that’s fine if you’re a more sociable type.
For me, the lack of physical cues in the communication makes everything too easy to misinterpret, so I’m always second-guessing what I say. It’s always safer to just not respond at all, rather than risking causing offence. And while taking time to make a considered response should be better, I still find myself typing the wrong thing when I do try to take part.
You can never be sure what another really thinks anyway, even looking them in the face. The virtual connection just makes everything that much more ephemeral.
Even so, finding your own clique online can offer a sense of community. But there remains a sense of detachment I’m unable to dismiss, leaving me cut off from even that illusion of connection.
I’ve been on a few communities, involved in discussions, and even keep in occasional contact with some members. But I’ve never really felt the same connection as with people I’ve physically met (not that I’ve necessarily had any real connections with them).
And virtual communities can be too deceptive. It’s easy to fall into lurking, reading what’s said and feeling like you’re still a part of the community. But would those involved in the community even remember who you are? It’s not as though you’d be seen observing the discussions.
Unless you can find somewhere where you really feel you belong, and where you can be comfortable, and then actively contribute to discussions, online communities can too often be illusory.
Following people you admire can also be dangerous. If they’re active on social media, you can feel like you really know them. You have to remind yourself you don’t. Not really. And they probably don’t even know you exist.
The distance offered by online communication makes my social anxieties no easier to manage. It can take hours to compose a single response to a simple question, leaving me exhausted, and still sure I haven’t said the wrong thing.