Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why the world and your life stink (and part of it's your own fault)

There's a great deal of debate (much of it pointless, some of it merely pretentious) about the supposed relation between the rise of new media, electronic communication, and the decline of civility and real community. Some writers, such as Sven Birkerts, have made of this sort of jeremiad a life's passion. Others, mostly journalists, make a career out of that sort of

Occasionally, the greater insight and best antidote come from the realm of humor rather than scholarship.

From the inimitable

David Wong, "7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable".

Scientists call it the Naked Photo Test, and it works like this: say a photo turns up of you nakedly doing something that would shame you and your family for generations. Bestiality, perhaps. Ask yourself how many people in your life you would trust with that photo. If you're like the rest of us, you probably have at most two.
Even more depressing, studies show that about one out of four people have no one they can confide in.
#1. We don't have enough annoying strangers in our lives.
That's not sarcasm. Annoyance is something you build up a tolerance to, like alcohol or a bad smell. The more we're able to edit the annoyance out of our lives, the less we're able to handle it.
The problem is we've built an awesome, sprawling web of technology meant purely to let us avoid annoying people.
#2. We don't have enough annoying friends, either.
#3. Texting is a shitty way to communicate.
#5. We don't get criticized enough.
Most of what sucks about not having close friends isn't the missed birthday parties or the sad, single-player games of ping pong with the wall. No, what sucks is the lack of real criticism. . . . I've been insulted lots, but I've been criticized very little. And don't ever confuse the two. An insult is just someone who hates you making a noise to indicate their hatred. A barking dog. Criticism is someone trying to help you, by telling you something about yourself that you were a little too comfortable not knowing.
#6. We're victims of the Outrage Machine.
A whole lot of the people still reading this are saying, "Of course I'm depressed! People are starving! America has turned into Nazi Germany! My parents watch retarded television shows and talk about them for hours afterward! People are dying in meaningless wars all over the world!"
But how did we wind up with a more negative view of the world than our parents? Or grandparents? Back then, people didn't live as long and babies died more often. Diseases were more common.

(Hat tip: my clever students)

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