Disclaimer: the following is not intended to make you, or anyone, feel bad about themselves… it’s intended to explain why people feel bad about themselves, and that’s usually because they lack a community and/or people who truly love and care about them. However, if you’re having suicidal thoughts or are extremely depressed, please seek medical help ASAP!
Ever heard the following:
“The more I’m around people, the more I like my dog.”
“I’d rather be alone.”
Actually, you know what sucks: the idea that’s a cool thing to say or believe. And in truth, 99% of the time the person who says that type of stuff doesn’t really believe it, because they felt the need to say it… to a bunch of people… usually on social media.
You’d think if they really thought people sucked they wouldn’t bother telling anyone.
It’s bizarre if you really think about it: the notion that it’s OK, even good, to be anti-social, aloof–someone who lives in catlike solitude and only now and then feels the need to rejoin society to fulfill some passing desire–is totally acceptable in our society. Hell in Japan it’s practically celebrated.
But it’s not cool.
And it’s not good.
It’s actually really weird. And creepy.
(Warning: shit’s about to get real)
Like, no one sits around and hopes their child becomes an adult hermit who surrounds themselves with animals or video games or movies in the absence of friends, works a passionless job, and who’s love life consists of masturbating at night in front of a glowing screen or jamming a battery powered phallic object into their vagina.
No that’s sad.
It’s sad that that’s the reality so many people face in the modern world, and it’s weird to think that it’s good.
Take the most positive spin on this phenomenon: the person who’s aloof–too cool–the kind of hipstery fucking weirdos wandering Portland’s streets in droves, for whom nothing is good or positive or exciting or genuine.
Instead it’s all meh.
They don’t say “hi” to strangers they pass on the street or look people in they eye when speaking. They rarely smile. Instead they spend all their time and energy buying cool t-shirts and foreign shoes and vintage records–all of which would be super cool if they could just actually get excited about it and own their own nerdery. But they can’t. Too much energy.
Here’s the thing though: no one actually thinks you’re cool for being a weird, detached loner.
No one gives a shit about your t-shirt collection or your movie posters or any of the other shit you’ve so carefully collected and curated over the years trying to score cool points. And ladies, I’m sorry, but that resting bitch face doesn’t make you look pretty or like a model–it just makes you look angry.
Can someone please explain that to me by the way? Like, these models are wearing these really amazing designer clothes, they’re young, beautiful, rich–but you’d never know it because they’re facial expression is the same as someone who’s just been told their dog died.
But to return to the point: no one cares.
And you want to know why? Because people, generally speaking, worry about themselves. It’s like: we’ve built this culture where it seems that to fit in you have to have this perfectly unique aura–a combination of possessions and lifestyle that will somehow solve all of our problems and make people like us… but it won’t. Because no on cares. No one gives a shit about the stuff we give a shit about–not the way we do anyway–and they shouldn’t, because they’ve got their own shit to deal with.
Want to know what it actually takes to be a happy, social person?
- Smile and talk to other people.
- Be present and genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- Occasionally have something interesting to say.
But instead we spend our time posting on Instagram, playing video games, watching Netflix, and shopping on Amazon for that perfect t-shirt or the next pair of shoes. And I’m not saying those things are bad in and of themselves (I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Insta @authorjeffallen lol), nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with collecting cool stuff or loving fashion or crushing video games. Whatever it is: you do you.
Just understand that unless you’re a celebrity, no one cares. Cultivating a cool persona doesn’t matter unless you’re famous (probably not even then), and also that’s not why people get famous. People get famous because they do or have something rare and valuable and usually have to work their asses off to get there.
Think of it this way: almost everyone is unique and cool and interesting if you really get to know them. It’s just that people aren’t going to like you or love you or help you because of your possessions or your social media account or your video game avatars.
Maybe that’s where the passive-aggressive angst comes in–why people feel so jilted as they get older and find they have a stale social life and no romantic prospects other than SOD. Because our culture implies and sometimes explicitly suggests that having things and status will make people like them, and that’s just not true.
Because we’re social animals. We evolved in tribes. We work together teams. And there’s nothing more human beings love than sitting around eating and drinking together, or enjoying some common form of entertainment. Denying that–suggesting we’re better off existing in sterile loneliness because being with other people can sometimes mean dealing with discomfort–is toxic. It’s one of the reasons we’re seeing huge spikes in depression, anxiety, and suicide in the modern world. Because people are trading occasional and temporary discomfort in a social environment for constant low-grade discomfort in a technological environment.
Remember that: when we interact with technology for social purposes–whether posting on Instagram or playing Fortnite–we’re substituting real validation for fake validation. The girl who posts that cute selfie feels validated because she’s going to get a bunch of likes and probably some slobbery dog comments from her male followers (guys: if you do this–stop–it’s pathetic), just as the guy who levels up on Star Realms feels validated because he’s got a higher status and a new avatar to put on his profile… but either way they’re just filling a hole in their life with fake validation.
Because dude didn’t level up in any way that mattered. He didn’t go to the gym, read a book, write a business plan or any of the other things that might help him accomplish something real. And selfie girl just got a little bit more narcissistic and picky about men rather than going to a coffee shop or bar where she might one IRL–and DO NOT get me started on SOD and what that does to people’s egos.
And deep down, we know it. You can’t fool yourself forever, and the fact is that it’s much more satisfying to have a real friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and/or partners than it is to have a bunch of followers on Social Media.
Because people don’t suck. They rock.
I’ve seen this all too clearly while living in McMinnville–a smallish town southwest of Portland–working at the family brewery this summer.
It’s not exactly awesome for a single guy from out of town like myself, because almost everyone’s taken, already plugged into their own social circle, and/or doing their own thing.
But you know what?
People here are happy. They’re friendly. They know each other, say “hi” to others on the street, smile all the time, and go about their lives with a joyful sense of purpose that you just don’t see in bigger cities–even a cool city like Portland.
The other day I was writing at the Monk (a local bar) and a couple older women asked me what I was writing about. We ended up having a half hour conversation, I gave them a book, and when they left they both hugged me as if I were a celebrity.
And I’m sure if I stuck around long enough I’d find my own niche and a local bae and go riding off into the sunset, pretty damned content and happy.
But alas my dreams are a bit larger.
However, I know that in pursuing my dreams–living my life–it does me no good to wall myself off from others, trading the affection of people for animals or followers or bots, too shy to even return an honest “hello” on the street.
Because we are social animals. We NEED each other.
And anyone who says otherwise is a weirdo.