My friend of nearly twenty years deleted me from Facebook last year. Yup, this was a friend that had known me through most of my highs, my lows, and through some of the most terrible times I've ever had. Then, one day without warning he deleted and then blocked me. I don't think it was one small thing that led to this; I think it was a mounting ferocity of incompatibilities that had been forming between us over the years. Instead of taking the harder option and talking it out with me, he could easily make a grandiose statement by deleting and blocking me. We're in all the same friend circles so everyone will know that we've fallen out. Or rather he has with me.
It sucks really, that we're reduced to this almost 'cop out' way of interacting with each other. In my day we were smashed together in a big jumble of whether we like it or not, and we had to muddle through it in a big calamity of whether we liked it or not. Wanted to end a friendship? You'd have to go over and tell them, and you may be forced to interact on some level which may involve sorting our differences out.
I think social media can be blamed for a lot of things to do with communication. One thing I'm delving my head, my research and my attention into is how communication online inflates and centres the ego. Okay, it overtly does this by selfies and status updates; we all know this. We have read on the newspapers there have been people that have nosedived from bridges because they couldn't get the "perfect" selfie. We are the "look at me, aren't I fantastic" generation as we update where we'll be at 7pm tonight, even if that's doing the same mundane thing we've always done.
I don't know how much research has been done into the ego, or the super ego of humans when it comes to social media. I know when I'm updating something I am very unaware of my physical surroundings making it a lot easier to say what I'm going to say. There is very little thought into who our words will hurt or why. But let's not get into the whole discussion of problematic wording because I believe that we look to the source rather than blame the individual.
I've been online and using chat programs since I was sixteen years old, and I'm now thirty eight. One thing I've reflected on and is almost universal is that the perception you may forge of someone is rather different to that of the real life physical person. This is probably the biggest breaker of online relationships I have seen to date. As a serial online dater in the past I can absolutely testify to that.
So what we have is that we forge two lives, one for our online persona, which is generally our social, which is usually highly egocentric; it's hard to be wrong, even harder to admit we are wrong, our world is centralised, we only tend to think of our own participation within the world, our biases are confirmed almost daily (if not hourly), and social media now funnels us down a rabbit hole of our own ideals creating a very toxic echo chamber of what we think we need to hear; creating a very centred system of which we live in. Someone that doesn't get out and about very much may find it hard to come across any differing opinions (apart from the people that actively antagonises them) unless they frequently went out their way to challenge their biases.
Differing opinions are now harder to hear because we rarely group together in anything but ideological circles; the great divide between the Political left and the Political right is getting wider and wider and I can't see it getting any easier, as each day we find it harder and harder to hear opinions that don't correlate with our own. This is not only true for America, but in Europe too. Whilst in America there is currently a gender and race war, in Europe there is a war on immigration; each side with their own battles to fight, and their own individual rabbit holes to delve down. This is because we're never shown differing opinions, and nothing is safe these days.
Let's talk about safety. As far as I understand it humans will only be receptive to your suggestions if you are deemed as a safe person. By safety it can vary from person to person but generally it means you aren't a threat to them in any way. Did you know that a person can detect a threat in just as little as the tone of your voice, and when you do this, they switch off -- in defence mode. Again, defence mode varies from person to person but it can mean for the most of us a complete lock down on any new information. Differing opinions are usually thrusted to us with aggressive, better than thou, morally superior attitudes -- which is why I say we need to learn how to be safe people if we wish to debate properly.
If we want to be heard then we have to talk to people in a safe and non-accusatory way. "All men are sexist" is certainly not going to win you any friends with men, neither is "All women are sexist." If you truly want to be heard then you must present yourself as friend rather than foe; screaming matches on Facebook doesn't win it for anyone I'm afraid. Blaming others shuts the people you're trying to speak to off faster than a council-owned streetlight. You don't need to be their best buddy, but approaching them in a safe and non-judgemental manner helps.
In the UK I was proud to be part of a multicultural and forward thinking society. It's illegal to be racist here, or any other ist for that matter. Discrimination is frowned upon and can land you in a lot of trouble for being discriminatory. I was a proud man to live in such a forward thinking country. That's is until Brexit happened of course. Turns out giving the people a vote on whether to stay in one of the most culturally diverse unions in the world was a bad idea. By law, we shoved the people that thought bad things about immigrants behind closed doors. Our country didn't solve anything; we only forced angry people underground. Then when the chance to vote completely anonymously on whether to go back to being British & white only again there was a landslide victory. Which is why I have come to the conclusion that suppression of speech is a bad thing. We need to hear what everyone is saying to get a true understanding of the problem. If we're trying to shut people up over the internet in big swathes of "mob justices" then we only fuel the problem rather than alleviate it.
I'd love to turn this mess around. I'd love to put the world to rights but I'm just one man. This is why I'm creating social projects centred around creativity, learning and reflection. I'm trying to force a wedge down this culture of not listening to each other. The divide needs to heal rather than get bigger. We need to start listening, rather than talking at each other.
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