Frosted green leaves curled against each other

Might we lose our social muscles?

Whether it’s through isolation, technology or heightened individualism, might we not risk losing our social muscles through lack of use? Sometimes it seems “getting along with others” is perhaps as unnatural as it is natural: having tended to live within social groups, it must’ve always been part of our makeup; yet happily making room for others and their way of being doesn’t seem to come effortlessly.

For whatever reasons, it also seems “modern living” exacerbates the trend: amplifying our own experiences, perceptions, ideas and struggles to a level where we’ve little spare for showing genuine interest in others or tolerating all our inevitable differences (Notes One). If “our own thoughts” are dialled up to the point of becoming “all we see”, how are we to make room for another equally dialled up individual?

Looking to the notion of technology forming some kind of ideological echo chamber around us, doesn’t it constantly emphasise our own ways of thinking? Isn’t the focus completely on “you”, the user, and your experience as mediated through this highly-tailored portal? Each of us, perhaps, living in our own interactive, self-confirming world of information, communication, and so forth.

Sometimes it’s like we’re all retreating into our own personal version of reality and having it confirmed for us at every turn. As if the walls of personality, constantly reinforced, could potentially become the prison we’re trapped in or barricade we’ll defend to the hilt. Of course, we’re all a world unto ourselves in terms of our experiences and ideas; but setting up permanent camp there seems questionable. (Notes Two)

I mean, isn’t social life generally some form of compromise? Some form of “letting another exist in your presence” without attack: respecting their right to be who they are and express their viewpoints. This strange act of communion, accommodation, acceptance as we make space for another who’s just like us yet, conceivably, completely different in the sense they’ve made of things and concerns they have in life.

If “to be human”, now, is to experience the self dialled up to the point where it might fill our own consciousness and drown out anyone else’s, how are we to live alongside one another? Are we to push our own thinking, our perceptions and conclusions, into their space – projecting our understanding over theirs then relating to them on that basis – or allow their way of being space in our mind to be itself? (Notes Three)

Rather than completely identifying with our own ideas of life and everything in it, might we not be better off realising every single one of us sees life our own way? If we’re expecting others to accommodate us, surely that needs to go both ways if things aren’t to descend into a strangely aggressive, mutually intolerant world of indignant self-insistence.

Maybe living alongside others has never been easy, though? While convention or expectation might’ve guided people more firmly before, it seems we now have this strange encouragement to abandon the challenge and think mainly of ourselves.

Notes and References:

Note 1: All in such a rush
Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 1: Joining the dots
Note 1: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: Can “how we relate” really change?
Note 2: Does being alone amplify things?
Note 2: Letting people change
Note 3: Modern challenges to relationship
Note 3: Frameworks of how we relate
Note 3: Conversation as revelation
Note 3: Mutual awareness and accommodation?

Ways to share this: