Recent events have led me to really contemplate the level at which our culture has become demanding: demanding on resources, demanding on consumption, and demanding respect. With this final topic I wish to contemplate further.
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” ~Joan Didion
A Brief History of the Internet
Social media is a beautiful tool for connecting and socializing and spreading messages, but it is also becoming a lazy-persons scapegoat for thinking they’re actually doing something.
In the early days of internet we had chat rooms where people connected to others all across the world. When getting to know somebody, we would ask: a/s/l : age / sex / location. Very pertinent information. In these good ol’ days selfies and photographs weren’t something that got sent around, they were actually really hard to get onto a computer, in the digital format. In these chat rooms, conversations were all in one big feed where people would be engaged in some conversation (from deep to dull) with some other members of the mostly anonymous chat room. (If only I could remember my friends from those days, wouldn’t that be a fun journey?). Real names were almost never used or even asked.
This Wild West of Internet communication days naturally brought forth all sorts of people from kind shy people to aggressive bullies looking to start something silly. Those in chat rooms to cause shit hopefully found their tribe of shit disturbers that liked to get aggressive with words. Other people (side by side with the shit disturbers) had much more deep or at least civil conversations, often times in the exact same chatroom as the shit disturbers and the civil folks alike. People could change text colour, so it was easy to pick out your conversations. Or you’d just read around the other conversations. The point is, if nobody engaged the people who were causing shit, they quickly left or would grow civil and join in on the other conversations. Many of us of course were annoyed with annoying people, but one also learned how to deal with them.
“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” ~Confucius
Humans usually speak angry words out of fear and misunderstanding that’s sometimes held in conjunction with past trauma. I think it’s safe to say the internet even now is entirely confusing and vastly vague.
And Now the Playground
In any playground really, if one gets picked on one either stands up for themselves – a public declaration of pride and honour, or one stays the hell away from that source as best they can. The choice is ours. In a fight, win or a loss is just a battle where somebody’s nose is bloodied (unless the fight was completely one sided, thus being no fight at all). From my own experience standing tall in these moments made me confident that when the time came to perform, I knew I would be there. I would not back down through fear. I would stand up and could react as protector. However, as with learning any new power, one is constantly challenged and tested anew resulting in the continued consciousness to control thy power. We will all have wins and losses.
But our modern playground, what does it look like? For adults it heavily dominated by social media. We are learning how to watch the game, and also getting motivated to play in the game too. Wanderlust, travelgram, fashionista, digital nomad, brand ambassador, van life… at some point I am certain we have all entertained the thought of applying these hashtags to our lives. We understand what it looks like, but do we understand what it means to get there? I’m talking selfie sticks, personal photograph assistants, countless gas bills from airplanes to automobiles, subscribing to seasonal fashion styles, promoting a brand we don’t really know or care about..
Do or actions align with a code of ethics we’ve deeply come to understand? Do we know virtue?
In our modern playground, have we lost our meaning of honor, defaulting to blame, vague proposals and declarations on social media? How are we developing – from children to adults – the capacity to define honor for ourselves and then moving forward with this virtue? Is it through trying to navigate and interpret a shit-storm of fear and shaming? What other ways are available to us?
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” ~Bruce Lee
When playing hockey and somebody takes the puck away from you, there is no choice but to turn around and chase that person right back and try to take the puck back from them. If I were to sit there and get red faced, insulted, flustered, and lose my focus on the game, I would surely be benched and quickly lose my spot on the roster. This is where mistakes are made: when emotions run high. Even on the attack, racing down the ice if one gets too emotional, they lose focus and probably miss the puck when it comes time to slide it into a wide open net. I have sat on my computer and recognize that I’m far too excited to even be able to type correctly. Have you ever noticed this in yourself?
On the internet and social media today are we all just flustered emotional garbage? Are we all screaming loudly with sans serif fonts believing this is our standing tall in honor moment?
hysteria (hĭ-stĕrˈē-ə, -stîrˈ-)
Have you witnessed a wide spread campaign of high emotion recently only to find a few days later it is all but forgotten? Have we participated in this? Shared our story? I have in my own way, that’s for sure.
If We Want Change
“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” ~Mildred Barthel
Widespread change, if we want it, needs a collective voice. Our words are important, and indeed using emotion allows us to capture the hearts of those listening. Perhaps this is the power of the pen. Without full hearted introspection we cannot find a deeper consciousness that speaks our truth. This could be called meditation, collective meditation.
This necessary collective voice is necessary, but does our world have the attention span required? Attention is required for a conscious conversation, and this attention does not come in the form of playing with a smartphone app. As an experiment, sit on a bus and see what almost 95% of the people are doing anywhere in the world. I’ll tell you what we’re doing: we’re consuming social media posts and believing in the hype, even though we know it’s not true. We know Mexico isn’t all white sand beaches and teal blue waters. We know Bali isn’t bamboo huts with infinity pools. We’re sold this image that if we wear golden fake tattoos and drink enough glasses of wine life will truly be like these sun soaked images we consume.
Finding a Voice
A friend of mine recently did a video blog where she adamantly explained how we need to stop following blindly the ‘ways that worked’ for some other person, and find our own way. It shocked me, in the video she said “Fuck so-and-so,” so-and-so being a business coach I figured had been a major inspiration for her own business.
I wonder, if everybody ran their businesses the exact same, would we have an equal playing field of business opportunities, or would one business leader would emerge and all the rest suffocated?
We know that we are the sum of our five closest friends. Have we come to the conclusion that if we spend almost all day browsing our social media feed, our social media feed is our closest friend? Is this friend motivating us to find our inner path and follow that?
Lately I’ve been getting frustrated. I know the change that I’m supposed to do, yet when I’m in a deep state of conscious thought I’m told to not be so hard on myself, to be gentle on myself, to self care when I need it. Is this where honor exists? For me, self care is about as privileged as it gets, necessitating a very special grip on reality and a very unfortunate series of incidences that lead to a life that needs escaping to a self care space. I would be ignorant to say that looking after ourselves isn’t needed, but is self care like a band-aid to some much deeper issues needing addressing instead of being pushed aside?
“The definition of happiness is the full use of your powers, along the lines of excellence.” ~John F. Kennedy
What Demands Respect?
deference (dĕfˈər-əns, dĕfˈrəns)
Absolutely all things of this earth and beyond should be given the opportunity to live the way we each desire, courteous respect should also be included in our ethical compass.
On social media, can we differentiate the garbage from the respect? In a world where face value is the truth, where curated feeds and catchy slogans are both used in posts and comments, I should think it is very easy to see the difference between good and bad. But understanding that humans are incredibly diverse and some of us just don’t have the skill set (or motivation) to curate a highly consumable feed, do we even have a chance to gain an understanding of another human who chooses to be on social media with us? Even in person in our world of fashion, clothing, makeup, and hair products, does this portray the essence of our human, the ethical and moral compass of our human, or does this just portray some sort of face value image copied in the likeness of an idol that’s been once again curated for us on a cultural medium?
“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.” ~Buddha
It is very near impossible to outline all the ways in which our culture demands respect. It ranges from Government Diplomats on international missions, to a handful of security guards calming a crowd of thousands. Our unique humans demand respect in unique ways, too. Some demand to be treated with respect as a transgender, an artist, a tattooed business person, a monk, a teenage driver. Respect helps us make first impressions and obey cultural laws of the world. When the bounds of that respect are broken by negligence, then where are we left?
When a tattooed business person walks into a business meeting with sunglasses and a leather jacket on, have they just broken the bonds of respect? When a teenage driver changes lanes or turns without using a turning signal, have they just broken the bonds of respect? When a monk sworn to celibacy flirts shamelessly and openly, have they just broken the bonds of respect?
When the bonds of respect have been broken by negligence, where does that leave us?
Little Bear asked his mother when will he be able to pick the blueberry patch by himself, and her reply was always: “when you’re older, Little Bear, when you have learned your way home.” Sad, and in a state of frustration, Little Bear hung her head down low and began to wander from bush to bush smelling for something delicious to eat. Before long, she looked up and noticed that she could no longer see or hear her mother who was always so close watching over her. Panicking a little bit, she yelled: “Moooommm?” To which there was no reply.
Remembering what her mother had said to her about staying put if she ever got lost and she would come and find her, Little Bear sat down and watched the river flow. Every few minutes she would let out a yell: “Mooooommmm?”
Butterfly, seeing Little Bear was sitting looking a bit sad, came along and asked Little Bear where her mother was, she replied: “I don’t know, Butterfly.” Butterfly made a little noise and then continued butterflying around the edge of the forest.
It became night time and Little Bear began to get cold, missing her mother even that much more. She asked herself many questions, like: “Why didn’t I pay more attention to where I was going?” and: “Shouldn’t Mom have been watching me?” She found a nice big spruce close to the river and snuck up the tree to a nice branch that looked comfortable for the night.
Sleep did not come easy that night, there were many strange sounds and thoughts going through her head. When morning finally came, Little Bear met Squirrel who asked: “What are you doing here, Little Bear?” Little Bear answered: “I wandered off yesterday sad that Mom wouldn’t let me go to the blueberry patch by myself and before I knew it I was here and I don’t know how to get home.” Squirrel thought a while and said: “Little Bear, when I get lost I sit and think to myself: were there any landmarks I can remember passing on my way here that I can head towards?” Little Bear sat a while and said: “I remember smelling some strawberries, but couldn’t find them, and then I smelled the deer trail. Then I heard the water and started to smell the fish and that’s when I got here.”
Squirrel said: “It sounds to me like you might know how to find your way home. Would you like me to come with you? I would enjoy a nice walk today.”