I have a theory. A two-part theory. The first part of this theory goes something like this: “People approximately my age and younger do not like to be drafted into unplanned social situations.” The second part of this theory goes: “The reason we don’t like these unplanned social situation has to do with the role that the Internet and cellular technology plays in our lives.” Because we became adults just as the Internet and cell phones were becoming dominant in our culture (or for people younger than me, because the Internet and cell phones have been prevalent their entire adult lives), we primarily negotiate our social lives through these media: we interact and make plans through the web and through texting and social apps, which adds a layer of remoteness to our communications. Rather than having in-person or (if on the telephone) at least real-time discussions about plans, we are able to cushion our response times, allowing ourselves the luxury of really controlling where, when, and whether we interact. The cushion of space, the bubble of isolation, has become an expected aspect of our socialization. We like the control over our lives and our schedules that it gives us. We like the space. For introverts (which I mostly am), we like the mental preparation it allows.
WE HATE TO BE DROPPED IN ON.
Contradict me if you will, but I really think I’m on to something here.
This has all been precipitated by the fact that I got a call from a family friend this morning saying she’s in town and wants to see me today. This puts me in a panic, and my insides are all, “NO NO NO NO NONONO!!” Not only does this mean I have to put off doing some other things I had specifically planned to do today, and not only does it mean I have to suddenly and quickly clean the house, but it means I have to be mentally ready to interact with a person who is not in my immediate circle, and that is the worst thing of all. And it’s not like I don’t want to see her; I do! I just…need….time…to prepare. GAH!
Currently, a friend of mine’s husband is going through a medical emergency. As he is battling, I am part of a texting conversation that includes updates from my friend’s mom. Now, aside from, obviously, being very concerned about my friend’s husband’s situation, which I will not dwell on here because I do not think that is fruitful, I am finding it interesting seeing how people react to a grave situation. We have all seen it before, all over facebook, emails, and other sources of communication: discussion of prayers, thoughts and hopes, and, so often, platitudes.
Oh, how I haaaaaaaate platitudes. (And I see I am not the only one). I guess I hate them primarily because they divert our attention away from reality, and give a false sense of comfort through the appearance of truth (because things become true simply by virtue of being repeated over and over, right?). They are born of mental laziness. They reveal an unwillingness to truly trudge through a problem and embrace its complexity, opting instead for a fatalistic relinquishing of control over our own lives. This is why, when people respond to our own misfortunes with platitudes, we sense that they don’t really care, though they are specifically trying to communicate that they do. Honestly though, it’s the mental laziness and fatalism that I hate more than anything, because the use of platitudes SHUTS DOWN AVENUES OF COMMUNICATION. They encourage us to stop wrestling with life’s problems, to give up control over how we solve them. They allow us to seek refuge in that which is comfortable, rather than that which is true. They presume to present universal answers, when in fact real solutions are always rooted in context.
So please, next time: let’s all just shut up with the platitudes.
Edit: wow, that title absolutely reeks of Academia. And after all my attempts to
shrug peel scrape it off me, too.
Lately I’m wrestling with a new problem: how to navigate and negotiate a public, professional self. Since deciding to get serious about my career transition, I have taken steps to create an online, published presence, but without being wholly conscious of it, I have been struggling to define and limit who my online self will be. This is being made much, much harder by the ways that new technologies are trying to make it “easier.” Google (fuck you, Google), for example, keeps trying to connect ALL MY THINGS. As if I want my email address and all the associated random accounts I have created over the past 12 years to be part of my present public persona! I mean, seriously, way to put your own homogeneous, advertising-based needs above my personal needs, Google. The
headache process of extricating and forwarding and new-account-making and disassociating is ongoing.
While every professional person, to some extent, probably has to go through this at some point, Continue reading