I have been overwhelmed by the massive disconnect I am witnessing around me lately. Tensions are high, opposing views have been identified, highlighted, and wedged between individuals and groups. Particularly I refer to the internet, which seems to be a war zone of people out to prove others wrong for their opinions and beliefs. Please do not think for once that I am at all innocent. I have come to a fork in the road and chosen the dark path of dispute, investing my time and energy arguing values on more than one occasion. I find it interesting that opinions and beliefs are topics of discourse when at their most fundamental level- by definition- they cannot be disproven. When we separate from others, we harm our mental health.
I’m sure most people can relate to scrolling through Facebook or Twitter and noticing an outrageous post or comment. You start typing your response; your head becomes hot while you expel all your fury into this reply debunking the claims of the article or commenter. Then you wait. For a few minutes you might believe you were victorious, successfully proving your point and negating the other. But then the replies start to trickle in, your phone or computer pings alerts of others’ retorts to your argument. The heated rush comes back to your head and you continue the disagreement. You might even lose hours to this endeavor. Surprisingly, even those who post agreement with you only seem to fuel the fire rather than quell it.
What drives people to stand behind their views so vehemently at the expense of human connection? Something vital to our survival, in my opinion, when you consider each of us is conceived from connection, developed by connection, and raised through connection. Why would we fight so adamantly to disconnect?
Since what we do outwardly is reflective of our own inner struggle, I propose this disconnect is rooted somewhere deeper than external stressors, far more complicated than a heated debate with an online acquaintance. When we feel disconnected within ourselves, it translates into our actions. Some may disagree with my theory, but I challenge them to look inward.
The constant undercurrent of all negative emotions is fear. In an irrational logic of the unconscious mind, any negative emotion has the potential to be life-threatening. It sparks fear and drives us to distance ourselves from the source of the discomfort. The most interesting part is that the distance from others only rationalizes the reaction. Validating our irrational and unconscious logic only strengthens the negative emotions. In short, if we feel bad and act on it by avoiding human connection we only feel worse.
My challenge to everyone, myself included, is to choose to connect anyway. Even when unconscious panic is suggesting us to attack or hide from any theoretical foe (online behind the safety of a computer or cell phone) stand against it. If a calm discussion is not available, choose a healthy conversation elsewhere for no one’s interest but your own and contradict your fears. If each of us continues to choose to connect instead of creating distance, we foster solidarity. Right now, we all need it.
If you are also feeling this socio-cultural disconnect, join me. Let’s stop arguing online or avoiding contact. Let’s communicate and connect anyway, in spite of our unfounded fears. Contradicting the unconscious logic gives freedom to live in action rather than reaction. We get to make choices to better ourselves, cultivating a healthy mind, and ideally that will trickle into the rest of our lives.