Modern life is tough. Everywhere, we’re surrounded by stresses and strains. It doesn’t get any easier. I’m in my 40s’ now. When you’re younger, (if lucky and privileged, as I am), you get away with it. Life insulates you from its more excessive elements. You’re sheltered from the extremes.
That doesn’t happen when you’re older. It changes. Every single person you know is going through something. Sometimes it’s mild, sometimes extreme. But there’s something amiss. Every single person in your circle is going through something stressful: career, family, health, finances. You can bet your life on it.
And it’s hard to stay stoic in the face of life’s pressures. Deflection works for a while, but the strain shows eventually. It seeps out. And, in many ways, the pressure’s never been greater. We’re expected to be so much and do so such for our families and ourselves these days. Nowadays, everything is judged against a supposed perfect standard that simply doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion. And a supremely unhealthy one at that.
And what’s more, everyone’s perpetuating it. It was not so long ago that only celebrities had carefully constructed images for public consumption. These days, everyone has one. Social media has changed the way we interact with each other and it’s not for the better. Most of us are putting out inauthentic versions of ourselves to impress complete strangers and with no tangible reward. Myself included.
What value is there in these myriad social media profiles where we’re all proclaiming our supposed greatness and exuding falseness through edited, filtered photographs? Where is the real meaning in any of that? This is surely one of the main reasons we all feel so discomfited in the modern world.
But it’s not the only thing by any means. In 2022, we’re more tough on each other than ever before. The world is a more sinister and unforgiving place. Just look at so-called cancel culture. Modern life compels us to judge the perceived indiscretions of others in an extreme and permanent way, while simultaneously seeking forgiveness and understanding for our own flaws. How can any society work in this way? It can’t.
My fear is this will only get worse. I’m genuinely concerned about the world my daughter (just turned five) will grow up in. We’re already fixated with image and insincerity to the point of ridiculousness. Where will this end? If this is what the internet and social media looks like in 2022, where will it be in ten, let alone twenty years time? It’s a sobering thought.
It’s impossible to avoid a lot of this, however. The syndromes described above are merely symptoms of getting older in the times we’re living through. The world is a tough and cynical place. Maybe it was ever thus, but you get a different perspective as you get older and navigate through life’s various obstacles, both real and imagined.
What’s the answer, then? Well, the antidote to falseness is authenticity. Truth is the antidote to lies. Kindness is the antidote to meanness and cruelty. That doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, of course, but, gee, it gets us much closer to where we need to be. And correction is definitely needed.
It’s important, as we get older and in such an increasingly cynical world, that we look for the good in all situations. That we see the best in ourselves and others. Not that we should be naive, but rather optimistic and open minded in the face of life’s nonsense. By doing that, we can not only make our own worlds better places, we can add to our collective joy and experience. In a world of such rampant individualism, selfishness and fickleness, we need society more than ever.