Silence is a special thing a commodity that cannot be boxed up in cardboard and set on shelves for sale Society only sees value in the shape of dollar signs so it's seen fit to fill that sacred void with noise The saddest thing is this absence is not even noticed by most it feels like good fortune to never be forced to face ourselves We pity the people of past generations that had to make due with their own minds to bear the boredom of still moments and shake hands with silence every day We've forgotten that space is necessary for new thoughts to be born for inspiration to strike us and give birth to beautiful things Silence has become unbearable feared above all else A sure sign that we desperately need to be submerged in it
Walking the line between contentment and complacency trying to find the middle ground of gratitude and grasping satisfaction and searching for more Focusing only on injustice and suffering is sure to wear you down fast but somehow it feels selfish to simply enjoy my own lucky lot in life without using my privilege to fight for more I'm far from ungrateful for how far we've come even though I know we can still do better I don't want to seem greedy asking for more than what I've got There are so many that have less than me I don't pretend to have earned my present place I take no pride in a roll of the dice but sometimes it's still hard not to feel cheated when you were promised so much more I don't take for granted clean water and fresh foods but should that mean I have to accept a 40 hour work week not providing any sense of true security? Humanity has a timeline now that only I seem to acknowledge is it frivolous to ask for dignity and mutual respect on a planet that is slowly dying under our overcrowded feet? Why fight for far off goals I truly believe we won't even have a chance to reach? My righteous indignation has long since faded away Most days I wonder whether I should just bite my tongue and be thankful that it isn't far worse I know that it could be that it will be
The anxiety disorders that we suffer with as a society today are a mutation of the primitive mechanism that once helped us to survive. Our nervous system is structured for attending to sudden, short-term danger that we would respond to by either running away, fighting for our lives, or freezing and camouflaging ourselves from predators. Unfortunately our society and technologies have far surpassed our biological evolution at this point. Our old ways of dealing with the original stressors we faced in nature are no longer translatable to modern problems.
Despite our problems being more long-term and complex, our nervous system’s response still manifests itself in similar forms to address stress. It is not always easily recognizable as what most of us think of as anxiety. I believe we still have the instinct for fight, flight, or freeze, it just looks quite different now than it did for our ancestors. I believe a lot of the behavior exhibited by people today is in fact due to anxiety.
Our flight response is what I believe most people mainly associate with the modern expression of anxiety. While we may not actually run away, this is the sensation we are used to describing as anxiety. It is easy for me to identify this inner urge to get away from the situation. This is the only mental state that I attributed to my anxiety disorder for the majority of my life. However, recently I’ve discovered that a lot of my other behavior can also be traced back to my nervous, unstable mental state.
I have struggled with anger since my teenage years. I never really considered that it had anything to do with my mental illness though. I felt that it was just a part of my personality or temperament. I’ve come to realize that, in fact, it is my anxiety that makes me so quick to anger. I had heard that underneath anger, there is often fear, but even then I didn’t make the connection. While anger may not always be a reaction to anxiety, I feel mine usually is. Understanding this has allowed me to be much more compassionate with myself when I become angry, as well as have more sympathy for others when they exhibit this violent emotion. When we know that anger is coming from a place of fear, it shifts our response to it immensely.
This is another possible reaction to anxiety that I’ve only recently identified. Most people attribute procrastination to laziness or simply not caring. I suppose it can certainly stem from these things, but I believe now that it is primarily another carry-over of our nervous system’s primitive reactions to stress. If we can’t used our increased adrenaline to run away or fight, we freeze, or in other words try to avoid the problem or dangerous encounter. Unfortunately, avoiding a midterm paper won’t result in the deadline disappearing or going away like a predator that hasn’t spotted us would have.
I’m not suggesting that these behaviors are justified because they come from a place of fear, discomfort, or anxiety. However, I do think that it’s important we understand the source of these troublesome habits we or others in our lives might display. At the very least, it can give us some insight into our own behaviors that will be crucial in learning to change them. Many people feel badly about themselves for things like procrastinating or having a short temper. They internalize society’s view of these things and make matters worse by believing they are just a lazy or mean person. Getting a deeper understanding of the root of these issues can help us offer more patience and grace to ourselves as well as others.
If he were still alive today, Martin Luther King Jr. would be 91 years old. Insane to imagine this man is only one year older than my grandmother. How much more wisdom would we have been able to gain from his presence on this earth had he not been assassinated? What would his opinion be of all that is happening in our world today? I would be so interested to be able to hear Dr. King’s perspective of the animal rights movement. After reading dozens of quotes from his writings and speeches on Monday, I was deeply touched by how many of these statements could be attributed to the oppression of other animals as well as to the oppression of different groups of people.
I’d like to think that because of the obvious similarities between all forms of oppression, he would be a supporter of animal liberation. Yet my cynical side doubts that would actually be the case. He may even take offense to the comparison as so many people seem to do and seek to distance himself from this even less well-received movement. Despite what he may or may not have added to this important conversation, I still think the comments he did make about social justice can and should be applied to the plight of all enslaved and/or subjugated beings.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This quote is definitely one of my favorites. This expression covers so much of what I feel about society today. Dr. King was a very hopeful man. He hoped against all hope. I do think he believed deep down that we would one day “live together as brothers.” However, I think it’s pretty obvious which end we’ve chosen, and it’s not brotherhood. It is my belief that our selfishness, ignorance, and greed will surely result in us “perishing together as fools.” Whether you want to apply this to the pandemic and our piss poor response or use it to reference our propping up of animal agriculture and its huge influence on climate change, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction, the ending looks the same.
If we can’t give a damn about others enough to stop spreading disease all over the world to suit our own convenience, we will surely perish. If we can’t respect the life and liberty of other beings enough to stop enslaving and killing them for a “yummy flavor” we will most definitely all perish. If it were only the human race that would be affected by the latter demise, I would say “good.” We deserve nothing less. At the very least, I will take comfort in the fact that you cannot get away with such atrocities forever. There will be consequences. And we will soon meet the ultimate consequence for our selfishness, our greed, and our infinite stupidity as a species. It will not be a tragedy either. It will be our due. It will be the ultimate stroke of justice to end our pathetic existence on this world which we do not deserve to be a part of.
A lie cannot live.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There are many forms of income inequality in America. Racism and sexism are evident in the compensation women and people of color receive in comparison to their white counterparts. I am baffled by the conservative push to indoctrinate children with the idea that we are all equal and that society is a fair game that, if played correctly, they can succeed in. For me, this was a bright and cheery message that made me happy and proud of humanity as a child, but it makes the painful truth of reality that much harder to swallow once you have to face it as an adult. I feel continuously confronted by the juxtaposition of the things I was raised for half my life to believe and what I experience as a woman.
I think there are a couple reasons why conservatives fight so vehemently for this picturesque worldview to be the only one our children are exposed to. Firstly, they truly believe it themselves. I’ve always thought of conservatives as primarily wealthy or well off people. They desperately want to believe that their good fortune is a direct reflection of their hard work and value to society. “I earned my place.” so on and so forth. It makes them feel badly about themselves to consider that they had a leg up compared to others. The poor conservatives that dominate my small area of the country are a bit more complicated to explain. I have to assume that despite their personal struggles, they want to believe that if they only work hard enough, they too can be wealthy and successful someday. On the other hand, perhaps its a subconscious form of self-hatred. Maybe they believe that they deserve the pitiful lot they’ve gotten in life through there own failings and flaws. It’s almost harder to accept that our society simply isn’t fair.
Secondly, I think that the data reflecting the income inequality can be confusing and misleading depending on what factors you choose to look at. For instance, not every job comes right out and pays women and people of color a lower wage for the same position. However, these populations are far less likely to be hired, promoted, receive raises, and move up in the hierarchy of their company. Whether this be through implicit or explicit bias is somewhat irrelevant. The fact is that people are suffering because of it. In addition to that, fields that are primarily women dominated are some of the lowest paying fields whereas male dominated fields tend to be the highest paid. Shockingly enough you can actually observe this trend. As the composition of gender within a field changes, so does the pay rate.
What fields women excel in and find meaningful are viewed more negatively and given less value by society, despite the actual necessity and importance of these careers. I don’t think anyone would argue that we don’t need social workers, child care, or teachers to be part of our society. In fact, I would say people would place these fields above things like CEOs, marketing executives, stock brokers, and lawyers in terms of importance. At least, I would. While these other, higher paying jobs are important, I don’t see them as the backbone of our society in the way a teacher is.
I think one of the saddest aspects of this dilemma is that it doesn’t seem to have any hope of correcting itself through the free market. If women (or people in general) began to avoid these jobs, perhaps they would begin to raise the pay and benefits in order to attract more people. They don’t have to, however, because for the most part, I think the people working these jobs do it because they see the inherent value in them. No one that’s a teacher or a social worker is doing it for the money. They are doing it for the children and disadvantaged populations that they serve. Compassion and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of these careers.
Perhaps even more upsetting than that, I’m not sure things would get better for society overall if these jobs suddenly became the highest paying. I definitely would hate to see people in these fields doing it solely for the money. Imagine schools filled with teachers that didn’t even care about their students or the quality and value of their work. Not to say there aren’t any teacher like this even now, but I think there would be far more if it was a way to get rich. Although it still might be nice if they would at least pay these workers enough to live and to pay for the schooling required to obtain the job in the first place.
With that said, I really don’t have a solution to these egregious injustices that permeate our society and workforce. I just want anyone reading this to know that they shouldn’t feel badly about being paid so little for whatever work they might be doing. One of the important things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that “essential” workers are also some of the most underpaid. So while you might be internalizing the idea that what you do doesn’t matter or isn’t difficult due to the number staring back at you from your paycheck, don’t be fooled. What you do does matter. Don’t fall into the trap of believing we are fairly compensated for our time and labor. In the same vein, don’t assume you are better than anyone earning less than you either.
The judge that sits behind the desk in his ornate courtroom may hand down the sentences to the perpetrators kids disclose about, but the people I work with are the ones that have compiled the evidence used against them that was needed to reach that conviction. Who do you believe has helped the child more in the end, the prosecuting attorney or the criminally underpaid therapist that has helped them cope with and navigate their trauma for years after the fact? Even if you believe their contributions are equal, one makes the same amount in one year that the other makes in one week. Even so, take pride in all that you do to contribute to your community whether you work as a waitress or as a doctor. Neither person has more value or is more worthy of their place in society than the other.
I’ve been reading a lot of Charles Dickens recently. I’ve finished A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Now I am working my way through Oliver Twist. I have David Copperfield and Hard Times lined up after that. Reading these novels has been one of my favorite parts of the day for months now. After dinner, I have been curling up with a cup of tea, my fur children, and one of these books in my hygeekrog for at least an hour if not more each night.
I think that one of the reasons I find this new ritual so enchanting is the contrast between my warm, cozy, little nook and the lives being lived out on the pages in front of me. Even though they are works of fiction, somehow they make me appreciate my good fortune in life in a way I never really have before. There is a beautiful, simple dignity in the way the characters accept their fates and the circumstances they are placed in, no matter how unjust or painful. It makes me contemplate my self-righteous indignation at even the slightest inconveniences I face from day to day. How might I learn to let go and move with the events happening around me instead of against them? Characters being abruptly put in prison with no warrant or explanation make less of a fuss than I do when I’m cut off in traffic.
There are also other ineffable aspects of these novels that fill me with peace and curiosity. I think one thing is that they shine a light on our shared human experience that spans the length of time. No matter where you find yourself in history or in the world, we all must face quite similar hardships and injustices. Life is not about avoiding these things. It’s about how we face them. Dickens’ books are a reminder of the fortitude and resilience of all those that have come before us and survived and fought to improve society even in our species’ darkest moments.
I think one of the greatest lessons I have taken away from my evening reading is summed up perfectly in the title of one of these books: Great Expectations. While not meant in the way it is in the book, I have realized that I have great expectations. Not for wealth or social status, but for other people. I became rather disgusted and disenchanted with the entire human race quite early in life. I saw the incredible things that human beings are capable of and somehow came to seek out only this from my fellow creatures.
As children, we are raised to see only the best of human ability and achievement. We learn about soldiers sacrificing their lives for the freedom of their country. We hear about geniuses that have devoted their lives to advancing and/or healing society through new technology and medicine. We see the bravery, the resilience, the altruism first and foremost. Characters such as Hitler are painted as strange aberrations, rather than reoccurring figures or the other side of the coin of human nature. Therefore I think I absorbed the impression that human beings should all be more perfect, generous, and intelligent than anyone can truly be in reality.
This skewed perception led me to be let down a lot throughout my life. Ultimately it led to the pendulum swinging the other way entirely. I began to believe that human beings are all selfish, monstrous, and grotesque in our greed and disregard for others. It seems that now I only look for that hideous side of human nature in order to confirm what I now believe about our species. I take for granted the good I see in the world, because that’s just how it should be. Yet I still see every false step we take as a society as egregious and worthy of condemnation.
Charles Dickens’ works are a vacation away from that staunch, black and white thinking of mine. While the horrors of society are upfront and evident, Dickens shows that despite this suffering, this injustice, there is also deep love, selflessness, humor, and honor within us. Human beings are not the best creatures to ever live, nor are we the worst. We simply are. It’s okay to have high hopes for ourselves, those around us, and our society in general, but not to the extent that we lament any and everything that falls short of our great expectations. There is peace and contentment in taking what the world offers to you exactly as it is. Our ideals should be what guide us, not something seen as a guarantee. It’s okay to be proud and overjoyed by the small acts of kindness we encounter, precisely because they are not guaranteed. At the same time we cannot be shocked and disheartened by the opposite either. The complexity and mystery of life and those we share it with is what makes it interesting. It’s what makes life worth living.
The social work field is ripe with the sentiment of bitterness towards those benefiting from social services. It’s shocking to me how many people I’ve worked with since entering the field a few years ago who are extremely conservative. I’ve only ever worked for non-profits that serve low-income populations. Most of the clients I’ve met have been on Medicaid and receiving Social Security benefits. While I’ve always supported these social safety nets and been happy to see them helping people, it seems like many other people feel differently.
It can be frustrating at times. You do meet a handful of people that seem to be taking advantage. You certainly meet tons of people that, while unable to support themselves, continue to have a new baby every year. The longer people remain in the social work field, the more cynical and bitter they become because of this. I’ve even caught myself getting angry about it from time to time. There are days where it really does seem unfair that I have to work to support people that don’t appear to be trying at all. (It’s easy to forget that a far larger portion of our taxes go to prop up monstrous corporations through subsidies and fuel the endless, bloated war machine.)
I thought occurred to me the other night though that completely obliterated all of my irritation and frustration with those “doing less than me.” I considered for a moment all of the wonderful technology that I benefit from every single day. I thought of the medical advancements, the free vaccines, our libraries, public roads and parks, volunteer fire departments, the electrical grid, etc. I have not done a single thing to deserve these incredible human achievements. I have not contributed to them in any way. Yet thanks to my fellow humans, to all of the generations that came before me, I get to live a life of extravagance and luxury unimaginable to most people of the past.
What a humbling realization. What a miracle to behold. What gratitude I have for this life I am able to lead through the superior intelligence and selflessness of others. Imagine if our forefathers had acted with the disdain we have today for those “milking the system.” We like to imagine that we are self-made, that we have earned our place in society through hard work and personal achievement. Have we though? Even your own accomplishments are in large part thanks to the family that raised you and your environment/opportunities throughout life. Things that we have little to no control over. Why should others be looked down upon or made to struggle because of the arbitrary hand they have been dealt?
So if you’re one to get frustrated and feel as though you are carrying the “undesirables” of society or that people on government assistance “don’t deserve it” remember all of the people that have helped you get to where you are. The least we can do is be of service to others when we have been given so very much by our families and all of the incredible, amazingly intelligent and generous humans that have laid the foundation for the incredible society we have today. These systems that we have in place to help those in need are one of the most beautiful examples of human kindness there is. We should all feel honored to contribute and grateful that we aren’t the ones in need of this help.
Why is it that we always feel so much more obligated to become involved with an issue when it is right in front of us? Even when we know the same scenario could be happening anywhere at any given time, when it is in our vicinity, there is an added sense of duty to intervene. I believe this is even something that philosophers throughout history have pondered without there ever being a clear or concise explanation.
On my way to work this morning, once again, I was forced to observe for the third time, these pro-fetal lifers as I passed through an intersection. I have seen them standing there three times now. The first time I was so shocked, I didn’t really get a chance to be angry. The second time, my blood was boiling as I saw the original man had enlisted the help of some woman. This third (and I pray final) time, after my initial spike in blood pressure, I was able to calm myself down enough to consider why it was that this demonstration always makes me so violently angry. I still haven’t really been able to come up with a satisfying reason for why that is the case.
I know that there are anti-abortion people all over this god forsaken country. But for the majority of my life, I don’t pay much attention to them. Even hearing about the new abortion restrictions in Texas, while saddening and disturbing, didn’t give me the same visceral reaction. There is some type of strange mental disassociation when viewing an issue from a distance rather than in our own backyards.
Another example would be animal neglect. I know that there are millions of animals in terrible conditions right now, a lot of which are probably not more than walking distance from where I am now. Yet I don’t really think about it or feel compelled to go out and save them (even though I wish I could.) However, when my sister and I stumbled upon a starving, half-dead kitten on the side of the road a few years ago, we immediately rushed it to the vet and spent $50 only to have it put to sleep when the veterinarian told us they couldn’t save it.
I am guessing this distinction has something to do with the fact that in the past, we really wouldn’t have had any knowledge or ability to intervene in situations that were far away from us. Yet with the rapid advancements we’ve made in technology, I could make a significant difference for people and animals that are suffering across the world if I really tried. And I’m not really sure which way is the best when it comes to this strange phenomenon of personal responsibility.
Part of me wants to use this inconsistency to remind myself that just because I see an affront to decency and humanity in my home town, doesn’t make me any more responsible to change it than I am responsible to fight for civil rights in other countries. Then on the other hand, I wonder if proximity to a problem does hold more weight when it comes to personal duty. To a certain extent, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the universe has presented these problems to me as a sign that I am supposed to do something. Another part of me questions whether what I’m supposed “to do” is practice surrender and letting go. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to exercise my anger management.
Yet another problem is wondering what there really is to do that would make a positive impact. Perhaps it would be more effective for us to act only on problems we have some distance from. At least then we may be more capable of responding with a level head. I’m sure doing a fundraiser for the Planned Parenthoods struggling in Texas would be more helpful than pulling over and arguing with those nut jobs I’ve seen on the corner.
Ultimately, while I’m grateful for all of the activists working hard to push society in the right direction, I don’t feel much like participating anymore. At only 28 years old, I am already so tired and jaded. It feels selfish, but I just don’t know if it’s worth it to keep fighting at this point. In the past my attempts at activism seemed to do more harm then good. I may or may not have positively impacted the causes I fought for, but I certainly negatively impacted my own mental health. Perhaps it’s a greater service to society for me to just take care of myself and be an example of what I’d like to see in the world.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s out of your own personal desire to do so rather than simply your proximity to the issue. I used to feel the weight of this self-imposed duty around my neck like heavy chains. I would often ruin my own day by getting into fights with people on Facebook about politics, religion, or animal rights just because I saw someone say something ignorant and felt I had to respond. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” While I still believe it is noble and righteous to stand up for what you believe in, there must be somewhere we draw the line in order to protect our own personal well being.
As far as I’m concerned at this point in my life, the world is crumbling around us. There are so many issues I am passionate about. I have such little influence and such an easily overwhelmed nature. This is the one and only life that I am going to get. Though it may sound selfish or insensitive toward all of the other beings who are suffering right now, I just want to enjoy the small portion of existence that is mine without inflicting a constant state of anger and strife onto myself. Especially when I genuinely believe the changes I want to fight for will take longer to accomplish than we have left as a species on this dying planet. For the time being, I am choosing personal peace over the pressure of proximity.
As I sit in my office today wrapped in a blanket, scarf, and thick sweater with my heat blasting behind me, I can’t help but think about the small instances of male privilege that penetrate every day life for all of us. My office is super small. There are never more than five employees here at a time, and the majority is always female. Most days it’s just me, our female therapist, and our male interviewer. Despite the fact that the women are all freezing each and every day, the single male employee has no hesitation about controlling the temperature in the building.
We’ve given up on turning the air conditioner off for the most part because he just turns it right back on as soon as we walk away. Even this week, at the fucking end of October, the air conditioner was blasting in our meeting room. He sees us shivering and desperately trying to wrap our entire bodies in blankets, and he just laughs at us lightheartedly. Now, don’t get me wrong, this man is not someone I would consider a sexist. He’s a lovely person and has a lot of respect and admiration for women. He’s even said he believes women are better than men. But this only emphasizes the seriousness of my point. Sexism is so pervasive and ingrained in our society, that it isn’t even noticed. I’m sure he hasn’t even considered for a second how outrageous and unfair it is that he should be the only one who is comfortable at the office. It only seems right and natural that men get their way, regardless of how many woman are inconvenienced.
It also saddens me to realize that because the majority of our employees are women, we could strongarm him into submission if we wanted to. But women are used to this kind of bullshit. It simply isn’t worth the conflict. We’ve learned to just accept that this world, and even our own workplaces, aren’t made for us. We prefer to suffer in silence rather than face the alternative of being called aggressive bitches for standing up for ourselves. (Not that my coworker would say that. Although I’m sure he’d be irritated.)
It really kills me inside that there are so many women that don’t consider themselves feminists or even who think feminism is outdated and unnecessary. They aren’t even able to see their own oppression and second class citizen status in their day to day lives. They have internalized this sexism so much that it just seems normal, right even. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the news about the oppression of minorities, bigotry, and racism. Of course I think this is an excellent thing that is much needed, but once again women’s rights are put on the back burner.
I’ll never forget how shocked and infuriated I was to learn in school that black men were given the right to vote before women. This will always remain in my memory as the perfect example of the unacknowledged plight of women. Obviously I think black men should be able to vote, but women were not deemed eligible for that same right until four amendments and 50 years later. My stomach turns just thinking about it. Black men went from being looked at as animals, beasts of burden, farming tools to more worthy and respected than women. It makes me wonder why no one else seems to notice this inequity between the fight against minority oppression and the oppression of women.
One theory I have is that the two types of oppression look different. In a lot of ways women seem to have it pretty good compared to other minorities. We are seen as valuable by our oppressors. However, we are valuable as slaves were to their masters. We are valuable as objects, trophies, and commodities, not as human beings. We are baby incubators, house maids, etc. Although we are still beaten, raped, and killed that is somehow mitigated in the eyes of society because the perpetrator often “loves” his victim. We cannot be ostracized, and unlike other minorities we don’t have to face the constant fear of complete genocide either. Men simply humor our existence out of necessity. However, as far as all the other forms of discrimination and oppression go, we are right up there with everyone else. In some ways this makes the disdain and hatred of women even worse because men resent the fact that we are needed. They hate us, in part, for being capable of something which they are not, creating life.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons far more women are vegan/vegetarian than men. Women are able to more easily empathize with other animals, because we see ourselves in them, we are not very different at all, in fact. We are tolerated purely for male consumption. We are just flesh, only useful to the extent that we can offer sensory pleasure to men. We are forced to learn how to survive, even utilize, the existing structures of a system built in opposition to us. And just like animals, the continued oppression and abuse of women has fallen behind concern and awareness for the treatment of male members of minority groups.
I don’t know how this issue will ever be adequately addressed, especially when so many women are all too ready to submit to their oppressors and take for granted the rights our sisters have fought for. I suppose I just had to write about this today out of sheer frustration. I might as well use my voice to speak up on this issue while I can, and while I am able to use my youth and beauty to garner a bit more attention from my male overlords. I am all too aware that as I age, my value will continue to diminish in the eyes of the world. And that is a sobering thought.
Algorithms, particularly social media algorithms, have been on a lot of our minds lately. But what even are they? Well one definition I found says that algorithms are: a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. So basically they are like an ever evolving blueprint guiding the computer’s actions. This isn’t much different from the way that our brains work, at least from my limited understanding of both.
I was thinking over how strange and ironic it is that we as a society have been struggling so much with technology and social apps. Even though we don’t want to argue, fight, compare, etc. These apps feed us the type of content that will get us to react in that way. This morning the parallel between that struggle, often leading to mental illness, and the struggle to cope with mental illness itself really became apparent to me.
Sometimes it’s almost as if the universe presents us with clever metaphors to force us to confront the things we try to avoid. Humanity has been running from itself, especially in the last few decades. We’ve submerged ourselves in these digital landscapes as a distraction from our thoughts and worries and fears. The internet, in a way, is the ultimate form of disassociation. Yet, there is still so much we can learn about ourselves through this unlikely medium.
It’s ironic that the very place we’ve gone to escape ourselves has become a mirror of the worst within us. These algorithms online tailor what we see, they filter the world through a lens of violence, outrage, and disgust. As I explained before it’s because we are naturally inclined to react to these things more forcefully than things that inspire joy, happiness, comfort, or love. Even while pointing that out in my post about personal responsibility, it didn’t occur to me just how much these algorithms are actually amplifying the algorithms within our own brains.
This public discussion about social media and Facebook are actually a fascinating parallel to the discussion of neuroplasticity. Unfortunately, no one has the power to change the algorithm in our heads except us, so in this instance, while not our fault, it is up to us to make a change. While that autopilot algorithm does do a lot of the work behind the scenes of our consciousness, we are able to take back the wheel and steer ourselves in a new direction.
Let’s get back to what I mean when I say this is a metaphor though. Think about the internet, for the most part, we all understand that what comes up in our feed every day isn’t all that exists on the web. Yet, somehow the things we take notice of in our everyday lives, start to seem like all there is to notice. We become cynical, or at least I did.
I can still remember arguing with someone when I was in high school. I was insisting that life was mostly negative or neutral events with light sprinkles of happy ones in between. How sad it is to look back at my young self who truly believed such a terrible thing. At the time, that was true though, at least for me. Because that’s what I was looking for, so of course, that’s all I found.
We are always subconsciously looking for evidence to support our beliefs, even when those beliefs aren’t something we are happy about. It starts with a belief, just like our apps start with an interest. Our “feeds” in life then fall into place around that central idea. That isn’t all there is to see, but it is all that we’ll see.
That inner world of ours, our perceptions of life and those around us, seem so real. It’s hard to conceptualize that there may be so much more that we are not aware of, that our view is skewed by the limited scope of what we are taking in. The world around us is continuously colored and altered by our mood, our knowledge base, our preconceptions, our biases, our past experiences, and so much more. These are the “filters” that we use on the universe. But the small amount that we are able to take in, that is not an accurate reflection of existence. Just as our Facebook or Instagram feed is not an accurate representation of the content available online.
So don’t get too trapped in your own perceptions of this life. While we may not be able to make a new account or scrub our hard drive so we can start again from scratch, we can make an effort right now to challenge our preconceived notions. We can practice compiling new evidence to support beliefs that we choose to hold. We can make our mantra each day that the world is good, that there is beauty and happiness all around us. I promise you, no matter how dark the world may seem to you now, practice believing that there is light and you will find it.