The World Is Making You Isolated

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Default World, loneliness

The modern world encourages our isolation.

As long as you are addicted to screen time, and plugged in to your work computer, your home computer, and your hours of TV as a method of relaxing, you will remain locked into your own limited world, where your every whim is pandered to by a complicit media empire.

The isolation of the modern world is changing your brain. It is preparing you for more isolation. The personal audio device and the personal video device you carry with you at all times are conspiring to turn your world into a limited and limitless matrix of narcissistic self-indulgence. They cut you off from your friends, your neighbors, and “strangers”.

The so-called “social” web pretends to connect you, but it really turns you into a mini-slice of a digestible demographic, consuming your own info-stream while pimping your “friends” and their info-streams to other friends who are hardly more than acquaintances, with whom you share only superficial affinities and membership in pseudo-groups.

This facsimile of a real community is supposed to satisfy you.

The hammering abstraction of the modern world is the assault on your sanity. It muddies your thinking, twists your perception, and engenders a madness that makes you want nothing more than blissful retreat into sweet, sullen isolation. You “recharge” from the intensity of the screen time and the barrage of symbolism at work by diving into more symbolism at home with your TiVo and YouTube and Facebook and TMZ. You feel that you are retiring to rest tired social muscles, but they were never used to begin with.

Your life, as an early-21st-century information worker, is marked by many superficial interactions with other equally-disconnected humans, who peer out at you over an armada’s worth of abstract armor. You find yourself saying things like “What are your action items from this meeting?” and “What is the value that we can add here?” and you realize you’re not talking about real life at all.

Technology has given us practical omniscience. It also makes it much, much harder for us to have meaningful encounters with one another. Our work together is no longer marked by hugs, tears, and cuddling, but instead marred by doublespeak,  gossip, and passivity. Our fear of, and desperate attachment to, the fake status we all compete over has turned us into yammering monkeys fighting over meaningless chunks of plastic in the zoo cage of our own creation.

It’s no wonder we’re depressed.

In this world of market-tested authenticity and free-range organic virtue, it’s easy to understand why we feel a little lonely, and bereft of purpose. Some things do feel like a copy of a copy of a copy. Our world feels like a simulacrum, a clone of a real life that once existed, but is now just being mass-produced. Our journey has been laid out before us, a prescribed set of steps that leads from cradle to grave without exploration. Even our crises, mid-life and otherwise, have been scripted for us.  These are the invisible social shackles we stagger under as we struggle to make something genuinely new.

What are we to do? Find a better hobby? Get a better job? Marry, divorce, have children? Buy a house, sell a house, lose a spouse? Quit our corporate jobs and become internet entrepreneurs?

The antidote for isolation is not more doing, striving, or accomplishing. It is not more churning activity. It is closeness with others. The antidote is vulnerability, openness to the unknown, an embracing confrontation with our deepest fears. The cure is to step off the path, into the darkness, with others who you don’t know.

Our fear has not kept us safe. It has only created a fearful world where we are all insecure. In order to create a safe world, we must let down our defenses. We must let go of our fear of the one most frightening to us. The white man must release his fear of the black man. The beautiful woman must release her fear of the beautiful man. The old man must release his fear of the young.

It’s time to start living this way. When you are out in your city or neighborhood, greet everyone you see with eye contact, a smile, and “Hello”. Do they respond with fear, gratitude, or something else? It doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that you do it.


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