Monday, October 21, 2013
making things worse by making them better
On the television last night, a rather dreary psychologist was questioned and addressed the issue of the loneliness that is nourished by the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter. It is a topic I find interesting -- the solution that promotes the difficulty it promises to avert.
The psychologist had written a number of books on the topic and was clearly capable of displaying and dissecting the facets of the problem at hand -- the electronic connections of voice and text on portable devices that a growing number of people carry everywhere and have increasingly come to rely on as a means of getting the next social fix.
So great is the reliance on these devices and their marvels that face-to-face social connections have been relegated to a social back burner. No one wants to be alone -- ever -- and Facebook and Twitter are the answer. Only of course the hand-held devices that deliver reassurance are as much a living proof of the problem as they are a solution to it: How come I feel so alone when I have so many connections?
The rather dreary psychologist went on and on and on and on, and in one sense, that was her job ... she was being interviewed. People were unschooled in the ability to be alone, she observed, and social media, as they are called, tended to underscore rather than ameliorate that ignorance. And more than that, the lack of schooling in alone-ness had a impact on the ability to actually-factually be together.
On and on and on and on she went. It was intelligent and thoughtful and ... a bit dreary and boring and self-serving. The woman had a horse and she was flogging it. She had written several books, thus buttressing her credentials at the university where she taught, and showed no signs that she was not planning to write another.
On the one hand, the topic interested me. But on the other, she made me wonder how lonely and bereft she might feel if the topic itself were simply wiped from her memory banks.
There is something to be said for identifying and dissecting a problem. How else could solutions be found? But there is also a problem with problems: At what point do they take on a life of their own and provide a raison d'être that has little or nothing to do with the problem itself and everything to do with a need for reassurance and meaning in this life? Without getting too long-winded, "Who would I be without my worries, concerns or complaints?" When does "there is a problem" become "I want attention ... I don't want to be lonely?"
I guess it's part of growing up or practice if you like: Identify the problem; get a sense of its highways and byways, its facets and subphyla; gather what assets are available ... and then act. And if, as is often the case is wider confusions (politics, war, or social conundrums, eg.) there is nothing significant that can be done, then do what you can and learn to shoulder the responsibility for your own insignificance ... which is not the same as playing the lie-down-and-take-it passive card, but rather a recognition of the facts on the ground: Do what you can, but do -- don't make a profession or claim a place at the social table simply according to how persuasively you can whine.
Why? Because, like Facebook and Twitter, it is too much like solving a problem by exacerbating it.
Do what you can ... but do.
And if you can't do, well, wash the dishes.