Social Media and Conformity

Perhaps contrary to the conscious intentions of its creators, not since the reign of theocratic governments in the west has our civilization seen such a forceful urge towards conformity as that generated by the many-screened internet.

The voices of other people are with us always, if not being funneled directly into our ears, then simulated by our minds, who so familiar with the voices of the crowd, can simulate them easily and without conscious effort. The empty, quiet room is a thing of the past. Like our prehistoric ancestors, the tribe is with us forever, in our beds, on our hunts, around the fire, and always chattering within our heads.

Solitude is our greatest shame, though it is half-forgotten and we often mistake ourselves as having access to it. Our alone is not really alone at all; all things are now sharable commodities, with potential and actual measurements of value according to the judgment of our peers.

Every action is on a continuum of quality, determined by the values of others, who in turn have their values determined by our feedback to what they put forth for our consumption.

Sustained deviation from the group determined hierarchy of value in regards to actions, and thus, the thoughts preceding those actions, results in that most ancient form of punishment; exclusion and ostracization from the tribe. But this so rarely happens, for the hierarchy rewards us lovingly for obedience, and we are almost never exposed to that which falls outside of it.

Only minds that are both creative and socially deviant can generate actions outside of and not motivated by the bounds of its punishment-reward system, and few are they that can generate an effective sequence of such actions, towards the end of somewhat dissolving the accepted hierarchy. Those that do may be lauded, and the hierarchy expanded to accommodate them.

The many-screened social internet is the great tool of both the deviants and the crowd; for it gives the crowd a platform on which to proliferate and make the hierarchy concrete, and give clear rewards to those who obey its rules. Yet it also provides small islands for the deviants to stand on, and scream their shrill and sometimes beautiful song.

The Art of Nonconformity

You are never above a system you participate in.

Boycott what is disagreeable and engage fully with the rest.

The cog must escape the machine, or sacrifice himself for the sake of its destruction. To scoff and snarl at the machine is of no use. It is forgivable only to young men, at the time of their first realizations.

The sooner they understand what bravery is, the better. Bravery is striving to destroy what you despise, fostering and cultivating what you love, and never operating under principles that are not your own.

Beyond that, opinions are vanities. Sympathies unacted upon are vanities. Regrets are vanities outside their capacity to instruct us to better actions in the future. Cowardice is slicks words and a fine identity founded upon flexible principles.

Constitute yourself in accordance with observable instances of success in the natural world. Past failures are the signs of a mind out of sync with nature’s rules. Understand that punishments for mistakes often take years or generations to come, but they come.

The modern man has nothing so much to fear as his own tendency towards sloth and distraction.

If he wills himself capable of the commitment to toil half in measure with his peasant ancestors, he will find joy, for it will not be work in the field he does, but work in the mind, done not in order to take a single step on the treadmill of subsistence, but to improve the world at least somewhat in his own image, according to his own ideals of what is good and right and beautiful–

That is, if he does not sell his spine or let it erode unnoticed under the pressure of a social heard thousands of times more powerful than that of his ancestors. They exert force upon him through almost every aspect of his upbringing, if his parents be unexceptional. They educate him on books written in summary of their common consensus and confine him to some small corner of the globe where he may remain small and uninvolved with larger affairs.

Whether he is the greatest metropolis or the smallest cul de sac, this is the feeling, this is the message; you are not smart enough, you are not great enough. Stay where you are and don’t get caught climbing towards truth. Climb towards money if you wish, or status, or fame, even power so long as you fill a position that was already filled, and maintain the hulking culture as it steers towards the uncertain future.

They do not tell him the truth, the all too obvious truth; that he will be loved if he strives, loved so completely it cannot be imagined, perhaps by the world, but at the very least by himself. They do not tell him his only option is to climb up the very rungs they said were forbidden.

It is either fall into a poison well, into a life fabricated with the discarded pieces of norms no one ever liked or consciously agreed upon, or to climb as high as he can, as long as he can, with the thought in mind that even that strain will be better than the slow death of a life lived in defeat, in response to the powers that very deep down wanted him to climb, when all was said and done.

The Future of Ideas

A crude version of the steam engine existed in the first century AD. It was thought of as a novelty, a toy, an interesting spectacle. It was by no means utilized for pragmatic purposes or used to jump start a revolution in manufacturing and transport. In fact, it didn’t change the world at all.

We often think that good ideas and great works automatically gain popularity and prominence. We believe that good ideas win, and bad ideas lose. Perhaps on an extreme macro scale, this is true. But it took almost 2,000 years for steam power to transform the world, even though the basic principle was known in the first century.

Such a historical oddity forces us to consider something:

What if the revolutionary ideas of the future are already in existence?

Perhaps some obscure book collecting dust in a local library is the only one that really got things right. Or what if some new age author accidentally stumbled upon the true meaning of life?

What if an unknown and minor physicist has already discovered the principle that will allow for intergalactic travel in 1,000 years?

Such “what ifs” are fun to entertain, but how can they help us?

They help us to understand that our civilization is still young, and far from understanding the Universe, or optimizing our lives through technology.

And in the realms of psychology and philosophy, I doubt we’re even at the point of discovering a rudimentary steam engine. Our most profound ideas today will be looked back on as profoundly naive and misguided.

Keep your mind open. Read the obscure and strange. Be skeptical of the popular and widely accepted.

Because when you look back at history one clear pattern comes into view:

Everyone was wrong about everything, except for a few brilliant weirdos.

Life on Autopilot

Every organism aims at achieving maximum results with minimum energy expenditure.

Humans alone are presented with a conscious choice regarding how much energy they use in a day. Any individual can decide to spend many hours a day in vigorous exercise of the mind or body, or else in sloth and complacency with external forces. Few choose the former, but the ones who do often spend several years in a state of discomfort before achieving an exponential growth in available resources.

Many have marveled at the achievements of such “non-conformists” and attributed their success to a cultivated defiance of what is often called “autopilot” as if the high achieving outliers in our society live in a state of constant resistance to the overwhelming social pressures all around them.

What an exhausting existence that would be.

Rather, our capacity for “autopilot” is as useful to the art of living as it is to landing an aircraft. Every commercial airliner today still uses highly trained human pilots because rigid, structured systems of control are best used in tangent with a highly responsive, creative element. Such it is with our unconscious patterns of behavior, which we in large part control through the decisions of our conscious minds.

The key is not in discarding unconscious patterns altogether, but rather in selecting those patterns after conscious, disciplined consideration of your own goals and predilections.