I had a good laugh the other day, while reading an article by a particularly ranty and aggressive newspaper columnist, who proclaimed that every Facebook update and Twitter tweet can simply be replaced with the words ‘please authenticate my existence’. His argument puts forward the idea that modern connectivity has turned us into little more than a bunch of ‘fake, shrieking character actors, shitting out nothing but an endless string of entertaining brain turds for the crowds’. Sweeping generalisation it may be, but this belief that we’re all essentially stuck in ‘5-year-old-child mode’, showing off to get attention and validation, taps into an interesting notion.
It’s part of the human condition to want to connect, to share our thoughts and ideas, to test out what we believe, and to see if the people in our lives share our views. Social media like Facebook allows us to air our thoughts and observations in a public space like never before – and in a world where we’re increasingly disconnected and alienated from each other, social media serves a useful function in bringing us together and giving us a voice.
It can sometimes feel overwhelming to think of ourselves as just one more human being, lost in the crowd, in the midst of millions of others all clamouring to be heard. In fact, ‘tribe culture’, made up of a group of likeminded people who (for the most part) supported and looked after each other, has largely been replaced by ‘mob culture’, represented by a self-centeredness and focus on the individual, at the expense of community. It’s this disconnectedness and lack of familiarity or sense of family, which contributes to the rage and fear so often displayed by individuals who feel ignored and alone. And with medication being increasingly looked to as a cure-all for our physical, emotional and psychological ills, we need to look more deeply into the source of our collective problems and find another way. So what’s the solution? What balm can soothe a troubled population suffering from a lack of caring, belonging and love? Compassion is what we need.
Compassion is something that seems to be triggered mainly in times of trouble or disaster. Remember the huge outpouring of empathy and support from around the world during the Boxing Day tsunami a few years ago? It’s clear that a common wound or goal can unite us and increase our capacity for compassion – but is it possible to create a more compassionate society without the unifying trigger of a large-scale disaster?
My hope is that as we evolve, we’ll manage to shape our minds and our societies to develop greater concern for others, as well as ourselves. When we recognise that each and every one of us is floating in the same boat, and that there’s a timeless, endless fragment of us in every nameless person we pass on the street, we’ll have learned the value of compassion in helping to heal our fragmented society.
It’s all too easy to write social media off as just a silly platform for trivial, self-serving ‘brain turds’ – but there’s no denying its ability to help us exchange ideas, develop greater interest in and concern for each other and find some common ground. So I’ll carry on sharing my ideas on Facebook, in the hope that in some small part, they might help us move beyond the pursuit of our own happiness, to a world where a sense of family and a feeling of belonging can be the birthright of all.
In love and light,