Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Growing Solitude

My buddy Glen has got me to thinking about people.  In my life.  And how there seem to be less of them than there used to be.

Oh, it is not as if I do not know more people than ever.  The magical world of Social Media will do that for you.  I literally have acquaintances on six of the seven continents at this point.  I believe my "People Who Follow You" on Facebook are more than my graduating class at this point.

Yet at the same time, I find more and more that I desire to spend less and less time with people.

I am happy to follow them from afar.  And Facebook (and let us be fair, many blogs) are an easy way for me to do such a thing.  And it is nice to keep in touch at some level with what is going on in many people's lives.  But following people from a distance is not the same as having them involved in your life.

Part of it, as Glen pointed out, is simply that we have become very polarized as a society.  We have lost the ability to hold the tension between friendship and beliefs and so have tipped the pendulum completely to beliefs.  We get along, for the most part, right up to the moment that we discuss politics or religion or guns or half a dozen other things that will result in one being drummed out of the inner circle.  And one does not wish to spend one's time arguing all the time.  The result is we have created a society that is very adapted to the social media we have - surface involvement, minimal contact, everyone wishing rainbows and Skittles across the board.

We seem busier than ever before as well, and busy with something often means no time with someone.  Being a mobile society does not lend itself to this as well, as it becomes painfully easy to lose track of old friends as shared activities are no longer shared and you are sharing more old memories than making new ones.  Busy means making choices about our time as well, because time is that one commodity that we cannot manufacture more of no matter how much we try to squeeze in.

The upshot, in my own life, has been almost a complete moving away from virtually everyone I associated with in my life even as shortly as a year ago.

Truly.  I have two friends I regularly communicate with on a daily basis.  I have social media acquaintances and work acquaintances.   I have my fellow Iai students that I see two hours a week, the rabbit volunteers I see every Sunday, and the Church folks I see weekly for an hour or two. I have all of you, of course.  Beyond that, it is really just the dog and the rabbits and my family.

Perhaps the remarkable part is this does not bother me all that much.

I am not quite sure why, and that surprises me as well.  10 years ago, even 5 years ago, such a thing would have seemed to be anathema to me.  "What will I do without friends?  That will be the end of me!  Who will I do things with?  Who will I share with?"  But it seems that somewhere inside I managed to make peace with that.

(Oddly enough, I feel closer to some of you through your blogs and comments than people I have known for years.  That also strikes me as something worthy of further consideration).

There is a bubble being created - I would suspect for more than would admit it in public - a continued pulling away from the larger society of interaction and a focus on the smaller few, or maybe even on the none.  Like most other movements, it will never be noticed by those that are the most loud and vocal - until they realized they are talking in an echo chamber and that so many people - the thinkers, the philosophers, the doers - have slipped off into their own associations and projects, leaving only a dim resonance of their passage.


Rain said...

I'm the same way TB, and it's by choice. After burning out, people stressed me out too much. I found conversation to be emotionally exhausting. I also feel closer to my Blogger friends than anyone I was friends with in my old life. These are like-minded people who share my interests, thoughts and beliefs, how could I not love that? :) And also, I can choose when to be social. I always felt that "real life" friendships required forced socialization, which I can't stand. My private life is very important to me and I wasn't able to keep up "real life" friendships for lack of wanting to be in a social setting. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. It's just a different way of interacting.

LindaG said...

And a lot of that is created by the toxic work environment; by people who, as you say, have lost the art of communicating.

From reading this, you are actually communicating with a lot of people, but as you have matured, so has the way you interact with people on the whole.

Some people take a lot of work to be friends with, for little to nothing in return. Then you have to decide if what you get is worth the effort,or if you are happier without.

I think you are happier without. In the same way you have decided to... declutter physical posessions also.

Wow. That was a lot of comment that you may not have even wanted, haha.
Have a blessed day, Friday and weekend. :-)

Glen Filthie said...

Last year an old boy ambled into my campsite offering to trade some tobacco for whiskey. I poured him a glass and refused the smoke and we sat and watched the campfire. He told me a little about himself and like me - he was just happy as a clam either by himself. Like me, he had a dysfunctional family. Unlike me, he had had a psychotic ex on top of that. He told me that he no longer needs people at all. He came by the next night, and the one after that - and rolled out one morning with a friendly wave.

TB I watch people about to do something stupid, and they get mad or offended if you try to help them. They expect me to support them as they create three new problems for themselves as they try to solve the first. I can't do it anymore. I want my retirement to look like something Norman Rockwell would paint - not a scene from Planet Of The Apes.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Rain, one of the interesting outcomes of the Internet - arguably one for the better - is that it has allowed those of like minded interests to form their own "tribes". And shared interests, C.S. Lewis would say, is a great step on the road to friendship.

For myself, when I have had to spend time with my friends in forced socialization, it is/was usually in the context of some activity that we had to do that I (at least) did not care about. Left to ourselves and our own timing, we tend to manage things well - because part of being a friend is knowing when to be involved and when to back away.

And private life really does matter - because it is only there that some of the greatest thoughts and breakthroughs happen. You are wise to guard it.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Hmm Linda. That is an interesting point, that I have "matured" in how I relate to people. I suspect that on some level that is true - but like so much else in my life at the present, it is hard for me to point specifically to something I am doing differently.

And interesting thought as well about friendship being offered. Do we consciously offer friendship? As I think in my own life, most of my best friends simply merged into the oncoming traffic instead of saying "I am a friend". Is now more that the choice is simply more obvious and so more likely to be rejected?

On the whole, I suspect I am happier as you suggest.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Glen, as I wrote, I suspect there are a lot more of us out there than what the world might suspect - and likewise, that we somehow recognize each other (Great, we all belong to a secret society. Finally - I have arrived!)

It is difficult for me to watch or listen to people do something foolish or stupid and then come to me - not just for advice (which I have found over time is less and less relevant as I understand how little I know) but for some kind of active support in the whole matter. I cannot do that - not just because you do not enable, but because for me to become actively involved means that I have now decided to be part of your decision tree.

My retirement - if I am lucky to live so long and the Lord does not come sooner - more and more seems to involve how little I can interact with the larger world around me. I may not be able to keep it all out - but perhaps I can keep it from inviting itself in.