I find myself wanting to avoid in person contact most of the time. Yet I still have a strong desire to socialize. I don’t socialize in person much partly because I know only two people in my entire apartment complex who share any of my interests. Sure my neighbor is cool and we help each other out a good deal, but we don’t have much in common interests. It is lonely not having anyone nearby to talk about things like history, philosophy, psychology, literature, tech, science, economics, etc. Social media used to be good for that before it became a toxic cesspool. Social media was fun until about ten years ago. It got real ugly in 2015 and 2016, a time when I was already having lots of personal problems. From October 2014 to October 2015, my three best friends in this complex died, my grandmother died, I had my car accident, and had falling outs with several friends and family members. In short I got tired of hearing negative crap about politics all the time. And I even agreed with some of these people, but they were still toxic about their beliefs. I confronted a few about their toxic behavior. Every one of them told me I could go away if I didn’t like it. I did go away. I have stayed away. I won’t even go to family functions and class reunions anymore. One of my college friends I haven’t talked to in almost seven years. It’s so sad and frustrating I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s sad that many people care more about politics than family, work, religion, and even life itself. I want no part of that.
Since I have more alone time since the pandemic started, I have spent much of my time researching science and tech articles and journals. I’ve been especially interested in the changes in the workplace and job market. Personally I’ve been getting my groceries delivered to my house since 2017. When I started this, I was the first one in my complex to do so. As far as I know, a significant portion of my neighbors now do so.
I’ve gotten most of my shopping done online via Amazon and King Size for several years. For the first time in my life, I actually have a complete wardrobe that fits perfectly. I never understood why people were so picky about brands of clothing, at least for clothes that didn’t have to be worn at work or social gatherings. But then I grew up in rural Nebraska where most people wore polo shirts and slacks even to church. It was tough to get excited about clothes shopping when I knew it was hit or miss if I would find anything good in my size. Most people weren’t at all sympathetic about it. I was just told to “lose weight” rather than look for specialty clothing options via mail order and online. For me, the internet has been a godsend when it comes to shopping for clothing.
I don’t regret selling my car. I had grown to hate driving over the years. And since I live in a small town in a predominantly rural state, driving is my only real option. I’ve had people tell me that things like buses and passenger trains were “socialist.” Never mind that USA used to have the best passenger rail and public transit service in the world. And air travel, with all it’s restrictions and screenings, is a sick joke as far as I’m concerned. You pay for a ticket and then they treat you like you a criminal from the time you show up at the airport until you arrive at your destination.
But, it’s alright. With communication tech being what it is, I really don’t have to leave home much anymore. And the pandemic accelerated the changes that were already starting. People tell me to socialize more. What do think I do online? I also read more now than I have at any point in my life even if I haven’t been to the library in over five years. I’m actually learning more as a middle age man than I ever did in school. Too many people got the idea that learning has to be tough and boring. And no, memorization isn’t learning. A damn smart phone can look up facts and do math better than any scholar. Anyone relying on rote memorization and repetition is getting slaughtered in the real world. It’s only going to get worse in that regard.
When I was struggling socially in junior high, my dad told me that nerds and geeks would someday rule the world. I thought he was full of it when he told me this when I was thirteen. But, not even thirty years later he was right. Most of the richest people in the world got their start in science and high tech, not manufacturing or mining. And I am loving every minute of it. Things like comic books, live action role playing, computers, techno music, video gaming, art, writing, empathy, compassion, etc. were considered weak and unmanly. My classmates hated people who read comic books and worked on computers or did art. They were like be normal, play sports and fix cars.
Now people are worried about machines taking over many current jobs. They should be, especially with the whole Puritan work ethic and being defined by your employment type of b.s. we’ve shoved down our kids throats for generations. These kids are right when they know that even a college degree isn’t worth as much as it was forty years ago. I’m glad I went to college when I did and got out debt free. College was also the only means I had to find something conducive to my skill set. I grew up in a town of less than 500 people dominated by corn farming and raising cattle. The nearest four year college was an hour and a half drive away. Corn farming and raising cattle requires nowhere near as many workers as it did one hundred years ago. We no longer live in a world where 80 percent of our workers can work on farms, factories, or mines. Maybe 15 percent of the population does such now. People complain about all the manufacturing jobs getting sent to China, but the value of US manufacturing is actually higher than ever. We just manufacture expensive things like jets, power generators, etc. And much of our manufacturing is done via machines. Blaming immigrants and foreigners is a convenient red herring for politicians looking for votes.
If there is a point to this post, it is that the future is already arriving. It’s up to us to adapt to the new reality or step aside for those who will rise to the challenges. If you don’t think the world can change for the better, you are wrong. It will change for the better but it will change in spite of people who try to hold onto the good old days (which actually sucked for most people by the way).
Even though I’ve been feeling hopeful and optimistic overall during the last couple weeks, I still don’t socialize in person much. Then again, that could be why I’m optimistic. While most people have been allowing themselves to be bombarded by constant bad news, I’ve been making efforts to figure out what is actually going right. My entire life I’ve heard that the world was messed up and we would collapse back to the Stone Age any day now. It really messed with my head when I was growing up. It was one of the reasons I preferred to spend most of my days alone in my backyard. I’d spend hours on end out there pacing through the cedar and cherry trees making up stories. I’d made up stories of heroes, future worlds where we solved most of our current problems (like climate change, poverty, war, disease, etc.) and were exploring outer and inner space. I never read comic books or science fiction novels as a kid. The nearest bookstore was over an hour drive away. Most people in my hometown thought “The Simpsons” and “South Park” were morally degenerate but war movies, westerns, and crime dramas were “wholesome family entertainment.”
As I didn’t have much inspiring hope in me as a kid, I had to manufacture my own. Granted, this was in the years before youtube and binge watching Star Trek reruns on Netflix. My best friend from my teenage years (the same lady who is my best friend even now) was probably even more alienated and an outsider than I was. I could at least fake enthusiasm in things like watching sports and politics I didn’t agree with. And I still do, mainly as a mechanism to appear like one of the crowd. I am actually more effected by the reactions of my family and friends to things like politics and our team suffering a losing streak than I am the politics and losing itself. Sadly, social media only amplified this.
Yet, I’m still thankful that enough people had the vision and ability to make social media work to bring it to the world at large. Sure, it was painful seeing sides of people I had known my entire life I would have wished I never knew existed. But I also found out who were really cool people I could count on in times of crisis. I may have lost lots of friends over the last several years, but I strengthened others in the process. Social media and the last few years of social unrest and change have really driven home the fact that most people have the friends they have, not because of shared interests and values, but due to lack of options. I have often had more acceptance and friendship from strangers I’ll never meet in my various facebook groups than I experienced from some people I have known since childhood.
Social media also allowed me to find out who the really toxic people were in my life. Once I gave up trying to talk sense into these people, I cut them out of my life. It was a tough process, but one that was worth it. People like that have always been toxic. It was just in previous eras this toxicity would have never been made public knowledge. These may have been the types of people who were pillars of the community in public but beat and shamed their children and spouse behind closed doors. One positive about social media is that is exposed the con artists and liars for what they are. People like that could have gone entire lifetimes being such and would have probably never been detected. The people who can be aware of how messed up those in power and in our own social circle can be are figuring it out. We don’t necessary need an entire population of citizens aware of how bad they are being cheated by those in authority that have never cared about them. Just enough to force changes are necessary.
Sometimes all it takes is the actions of only one really dedicated individual to inspire others whom in term inspire others. I mean, does anyone know who Gandhi’s brothers and sisters were (without going to wikipedia)? Or Isaac Newton’s? Or Greta Thunberg’s? Or Martin Luther King’s? Short term, fear and hate usually win. Long term, it is usually love and hope that wins out. Sure we have our problems and always will. But that doesn’t mean that progress is in illusion. I absolutely despise people who believe progress isn’t real and that even individual people can’t change. I’ve ended friendships over these attitudes. I spent my entire childhood being bombarded by negativity, pessimism, and fear. I will never go back. Hell, I feel like I was cheated by my elders for trying to steal my optimism and hope. They may have fought to take my hope and crush my spirit and kill my creativity. But they failed and they failed miserably. If anything, they made my resolve even stronger. And I’m not unique in this regard. I imagine every city, town, village, cross roads, tribe, etc. all over the world has at least a few kids who were “hopeless dreamers” who refused to be “practical” in spite of the negativity and punishments of their elders. And many of these kids grew up to be the adults who made positive change possible in their own ways. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are often the ones who accomplish just that. In short, now is probably one of the lousiest times in human history to be a pessimist who naively clings to comfortable lies of the past. It is also an awful time to a tyrant so seeks to divide people and rule through fear.
Been staying home most days lately. I have started sleeping less overall. I do most of my socializing online and over the phone. Most of my friends are struggling during the pandemic. Two of my friends had to apply for rent assistance and are relying on food pantries. And this is while working full time jobs. Another friend of mine has had several nervous breakdowns, has stress induced migraines almost every day, and is afraid her company will start layoffs. Another friend of mine isn’t taking the pandemic very serious and thinks all the protesters are complaining over nothing and that we should lift all restrictions on everything and let the virus take it’s course. I have been avoiding him for the last few weeks. I had a major falling out with one of my best friends because he had become very nasty about his political and anti science beliefs. I haven’t talked to him in over three years.
I keep my social interactions very limited now. I find it frightening how hateful, spiteful, short sighted, and hopeless most people I know have become. About the only hopeful person I know is my own mother. Even my father is very pessimistic and depressing, but at least he isn’t hateful. I don’t talk to my brother and his family much because they are so busy with their careers. But then my brother and I never had a relationship. We just have nothing in common. Never did.
I’m in that part of my depression where I’m lonely but I fear socializing. I don’t want to die but I am afraid that the future will only be worse than it is now. Even though the science, tech, and medicine keep improving, the people I know keep getting angrier and spiteful. It’s draining. I hate not having much of a social network. But, what’s the point of having a social network if most people are just going to make me feel worse? I guess I swing from hopeless optimism to hopeless pessimism, often several times a day.
When it rains, it pours it seems. My two neighbors who moved out a few weeks ago are now under quarantine for the next two weeks because someone they were helping out is showing classic covid symptoms. And these neighbors helped me out a great deal over the last couple years as I’ve lost my mobility. My cleaning lady recently came back to work but she is still slowed from her surgery. Had a breakdown over the weekend. Sometimes the only thing I can do for those is to just vent to someone until it blows over. I feel bad that I take this out on family, but who else can I talk to? I’m too paranoid and scared of my fellow tenants to ask for help. I don’t qualify for any extra aid from the state. My family and friends live too far away to offer assistance at a moment’s notice. I originally moved out of my home village for better healthcare and job opportunities and better social connections. Now that I have no car (I’m too scared and paranoid to be safe behind the wheel), my help is gone, and we are now in the middle of both a pandemic and economic depression, I’m essentially on my own with no immediate back up. I can’t ask for help from my other neighbors as they are irritable and hateful on even good days. I’m limited mobility because of chronic pains. I guess that twenty plus years of schizophrenia is taking even a physical toll. I’m even scared to answer my door.
Been isolating and staying home for the last several days. I do all my communication through social media and phone calls. My cleaning lady had to have surgery so she’s out for probably a few months. My neighbors come by and help out every few days. Overall I’m burned out on dealing with people in person. People actually scare me anymore. The less I deal with them, at least in person, the better.
Currently working on audiobooks. Recently listened to The Economic Singularity by Callum Chase. Currently working on The Rise of The Robots by Martin Ford. A friend of mine is trying to talk me into reading the Dune and Foundation series. I read the first Foundation a year ago. But I got soured on science fiction as a teenager when movies like The Terminator, Gattaca, and The Matrix were really big. I have enough dystopia in my own life. Why in the hell would I want to escape to that? Recently read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harrahi.
I spend almost all of my time avoiding people. These are real scary times for me, especially living in low income housing, being on disability, and dealing with mostly angry, irrational, and illogical people. It seems like most people I personally know just want to fight all the time. I’m through with that. I’m ready to move past the anger phase. Too bad almost no one I know is. I am thankful I don’t live in a large city. I am thankful I can hermit and stay home. I am thankful I don’t have to deal with angry and stupid people anymore than I already have to. I don’t see how most people can deal with this. I know I couldn’t.
I’ve now spent two months in self quarantine. While things are opening back up, I’m still staying home. I’m still paranoid about leaving my apartment. And I sometimes have anxiety problems. At least they don’t last very long. I’ve had only one breakdown since self quarantine started. That was about a month ago.
I find myself wanting to sleep more. Sometimes I sleep just out of depression. Sometimes I’ll just lay in bed for a couple hours in the afternoon just to let my mind wander. I occasionally have hallucinations, especially as I try to fall asleep. I often hear footsteps of people that aren’t there. I sometimes hear knocks on my door when no one is there. I sometimes hear doors open and close. And I’m beginning to get paranoid around some of my neighbors. I sometimes fear they secretly don’t like me and want to get me evicted. I sometimes fear people will try to break into my place and rob me, sometimes even during daylight hours. I’m scared my neighbors will try to pick arguments and fights with me sometimes. It just seems that people are more angry and quicker to fight lately.
I no longer find socializing enjoyable. I spend most of my time at home. I’ll sweet talk my neighbors into picking up my mail once a week just so I don’t have to be forced to socialize. I’m scared I’ll get into a heated conversation that I wanted nothing to do with in the first place. I don’t even find socializing over the phone very enjoyable anymore. I fear people will think I’m rude if I don’t want to talk. So I sometimes lie and say I have another call or someone knocking on my door if I need to end a conversation quickly. I just don’t want to socialize anymore. Some days I want to spend all day in bed. But I don’t simply because I’m paranoid that someone will knock on my door or call my phone and I’ll be expected to answer at a moment’s notice. I fear people get angry with me if I have to make them wait at all. I’ve had this fear for most of my life.
Haven’t written for a few days. I’m only now recovered from the holidays. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it’s 2020. I am understanding why my grandmother said that time only goes faster the older you get. I’m going to be 40 this summer. Mentally I don’t feel any decline. If anything, I feel mentally sharper and stronger than ever. Physically, my body can no longer keep up with my mind. It’s been this way for a couple years now. I would love to be able to road trip and visit friends in person and go to concerts and ballgames at a moment’s notice like I did in my late 20s and early 30s. But the body can no longer keep up. I don’t know how much of it is aging, how much of it is the toll of two decades fighting a severe mental illness, how much of it is being overweight, etc. At this point I guess it doesn’t matter either way. I am pretty much content to stay home, chat with my old friends online, read my books, mess with my computers, and watch the events of our time and place unfold from my apartment.
Found out right before Christmas one of my college classmates died. He was only 40. He worked at a mental health hospital and was a compassionate man. I hadn’t talked to him much since graduation. I’m glad we found each other on facebook and were able to reestablish contact shortly before he died. And then just yesterday I found out another college friend’s cancer has come back. This time it’s terminal. The doctors told her she has two to five years at most. Starting to lose my own friends now.
Seeing most of my friends struggle financially has taken a toll on me. And now that most of them are in declining physical and mental health and even starting to die is making this only worse. It has gotten me to think about my own mortality far more than ever. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was relieved to find I was not diabetic. The only real problem they found was high blood pressure. I no longer have much for stamina. That’s one of the reasons I stay home so much. Going out in public is now enough of an ordeal that I no longer enjoy it. Add to this that most people I know are more stressed and short tempered than ever, I have no want to leave my apartment. I have enough problems of my own to catch an ear full from my neighbors and landlord. Sometimes I get in trouble even just staying at home. Most people in my complex think I’m moving out or getting evicted because I never go out in public anymore. Naturally, lots of rumors are going around. No I’m not moving. As far as I know, I’m not in danger of being evicted. Though for the last few years I’ve lived in near constant paranoia that I was. It’s mainly because most people are just so angry and short tempered constantly. It didn’t used to be this way. I actually used to enjoy socializing. Then three of my best friends in my apartment complex died within six months of each other in 2014 and 2015. From there my social life fell apart. Other than a few neighbors, I literally have no friends within a fifty mile radius. I don’t think most people know or care how tough socializing is for a middle aged man with a disability and no immediate family nearby. I just keep to myself anymore. I would rather be alone than have to fight with neighbors, coworkers, and complete strangers all the time.
Haven’t been out much this spring. It seems like when I feel decent enough to go out it’s cold and raining. When I feel too depressed or anxious, that’s when the weather is good. I pretty much just stay at home most of the time. I fear that I’m developing a phobia of being out in public. I want to stay home, read, use my computer, write, and sleep. And that is about it anymore. I don’t even want to socialize with anyone in person anymore. My landlady came to my apartment a few days ago and chewed me out. I won’t go into details except that it scared me real bad. I don’t want to go into details, so please don’t ask.
I have just been having a rough go with people in general this spring. One day when I left my apartment, I stepped into the hallway only to see and hear several of my neighbors arguing and screaming at each other. It was bad enough I would have called the police except I was too scared to. Several of the people involved live near me and I know they would have made my life miserable had I reported them. I often hear my neighbors argue and fight. I occasionally smell pot smoke so thick I get slightly buzzed off it. And it isn’t the good type of buzz, it’s the kind I am noxious and want to vomit type buzz coupled with migraines.
When I do get past my hallway, I get into the main assembly hall where there are vending machines and occasionally coffee left over from the morning social hour. I don’t go there much because it seems the only people that want to talk are in bad moods. It wears on me. I certainly don’t go outside much nor do I drive much anymore. I do all my shopping from online now. I’m scared to go out in public anymore. I always get people looking at me like I’m going to assault them or try to steal from their stores. You act like you never saw a fat single man before who can read and converse beyond a fifth grade level. I fear that some of these people may read me wrong, confront me and that will start a nervous breakdown and I’ll either wind up in prison or dead. Just because of some scaredy cats reading a stranger wrong.
The whole “stranger danger” movement created an entire civilization of fear mongers and dysfunctional neurotics who are afraid of anyone but themselves. It’s a mountain made out of an ant hill as far as I’m concerned. Statistically speaking, you and your children are far, far more likely to be murdered, assaulted, raped, robbed, swindled, or molested by people you know then don’t. Far more children are hurt by religious leaders, teachers, and even parents than hard core street gangs or Hell’s Angels types. But it doesn’t make for good headlines or made for TV movies. I hate it that most people can’t even do basic math or even understand basic statistics. It’s really messing up our civilization and causing people to make terrible decisions. And it’s making us miserable and lonely.
I actually want to socialize. But I am no longer willing to tolerate being treated guilty until proven innocent every time I enter public life. I am no longer willing to tolerate being surrounded by rude and angry people all the time. Many people are also just flat out act dumb too. I once read in article and saw a TED talk that said that people’s IQ and overall intelligence are higher than our grandparents’ generation. I don’t believe it, at least not in my elders or my peers. I don’t see it in person or online. Everybody is just mean to each other all the time from what I seen just in my small midwest hometown and online interactions. I hear all this talk about how we got to physically discipline our kids or their turn out to be worthless. Spare the rod and spoil the child they say. Fine with me. But most adults could stand to the exact same type of physical discipline as far as I can tell. But if I do that, then that’s assault and I’ll go to prison. The USA already has more people in prison than the old USSR ever did at any point. Look this up.
It isn’t just the “lousy kids” causing trouble. The elders just love to rant and rave about how bad the teenagers and twenty somethings suck. Even people my age are starting in on the kids. Never mind it’s the “lousy kids” who are fighting and getting killed in your endless wars, paying far more for college educations than their grandparents did yet facing far worse job markets, can’t afford most houses or even cars even with multiple incomes, etc. And these kids are supposed to be grateful for cheap electronics and communications? Why, providing the internet and raising these kids who will end up being heroes eventually are the best thing my generation and my parents’ generation will ever do. Let these kids work their mojo and get out of their way. I see many parallels between the millenial people and the kids in my nephews’ generations and the generations that produced the World War II and World War I veterans.
Granted it’s socially acceptable to hate these kids. I swear they are getting it even worse than what I did back in the 1980s and 1990s. Why do we as a civilization and a species hate those with youth, vigor, and in their prime breeding years? That has to be something unique to our species. At least animals that don’t want their offspring will kill them when they are infants. Civilized humans will just emotionally and mentally cripple them for life. People tried to crush my spirit and my friends’ spirits when we were teenagers and young adults. Get what, you failed. You only made us stronger and more capable. I actually encounter far more verbal abuse online and in person from my elders than anyone in my age bracket or younger. Wisdom comes age, no it doesn’t.
People worry that science fiction dystopia could become reality. For some of us, dystopia has been our reality for years. It’s just neurotypical people are only recently starting to deal with things that the mentally ill, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, sexual minorities, etc. have had to deal with for thousands of years. It stinks being treated like a potential criminal because what have you, doesn’t it? Many neurotypicals are losing their minds and blowing their tops primarily, I think, simply because they aren’t used to being viewed with suspicion and fear. I have been viewed with fear and suspicion my entire life, mainly because of my size, mental capacity, physical strength, mental illness, and I just don’t desire to socialize with large numbers of people. I love socializing, but only with intelligent and empathic people. I can’t stand social mixers, cocktail parties, bar scenes, or even church dinners. I never have been able to adapt to these situations.
I was far more at home in my class discussion groups in college than I ever was anywhere else. I think had I never gotten mentally ill I would have been content to work at a large university or think tank. I would have fell in love with that kind of work. Maybe spend my mornings teaching classes, go have my lunch while having conversations with other faculty members, maybe lift weights with the football coaches after work, and then spend my evenings working in the lab or libraries. People say that those who can’t teach. As if teaching is a dishonorable career field. Whatever idiot came up with the stupid phrase “those who can’t teach” was probably an American. At least I would have loved working in academia before the whole speech codes, safe spaces, and no freedom for those we don’t agree with social justice thugs came along. Maybe I am still alive at this point precisely because I became mentally ill and had a reasonably acceptable excuse to drop out of my society. I was hated and despised at every job I ever held. Not because I was bad at my job, but because I was good and could often think of better ways of doing things than even my bosses.
People are scared senseless of any kind of ability and intelligence it seems, at least that’s my experience. But if hating achievement, progress, risk taking, and standing out in anyway not deemed socially acceptable is the spirit of this place and age, then being alone and on disability pension is the best I will be able to do for the time being. The only way I, and people like me, could ever have even a remotely normal life is for a massive paradigm shift that values creativity and high achievers. But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not here in USA. I wonder how free thinkers, odd fellows, weirdos, and eccentrics are condemned and marginalized in other parts of the world. I’d love to hear this. I keep telling myself and my friends “this isn’t normal.” But even I am starting to lose hope that people will come to their senses ever again.
Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days. We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold. Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary. So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon. I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days. I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am. My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years. It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things. Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long. Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either. It is coming along though.
One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day. About ten of us went to her party. It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other. It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately. I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing. So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes. One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods. The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.
It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now. I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech. They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school. My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely. As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years. And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech. I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it. I call their bluff on that. I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.
I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs. Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns. My parents were not amused by that. Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy. And twenty years isn’t that long. It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood. The world has changed that much.
Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm. Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities. Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet. Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily. It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years. Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced. It can also justify some truly evil actions. Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets. It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world. And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others. Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.
Changes are a constant of human existence. Changes even in nature are constant too. With human existence, change will continue to come. In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations. These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not. We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did. The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past. Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history. This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.
Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime. Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life. I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook. Give it time. Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually. It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices. Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s. My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.
For many this is true, at least in USA. Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances. At least not yet. We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago. In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology. Of course there are going to be conflicts. We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want. Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years. No wonder people are stressed. We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want. We are in transition. And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows. Stay tuned. Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.