Sort of a parallel to Troubadour's "They're Saying the Shooter Had Asperger's" diary...
Just like James Holmes in Aurora, Adam Lanza had no Facebook page. And no Twitter account. And had few friends, and was quiet and shy, smart and a "gamer", etc. ...
Just what we need-- more stigmatizing of not only people with Asperger's, but anyone who chooses not to be on Facebook, or commits the crime of having fewer friends than some arbitrary societal standard is.
Just what is that friends standard, anyway? 10 face-to-face-friends minimum? Plus 5000 Facebook friends and a Klout score of at least 35?
And all this time I thought that if you subjectively felt you were socially well-connected enough, you were all right...
I choose not to be on Facebook. And every day I wonder about how many jobs and opportunities I've effectively eliminated myself from. Every day I worry that people I've never even met are going to pre-judge me before they ever have a chance to know me... all because two mass murderers now have been shown to have a scanty-at-best digital footprint, and I don't want to be like them, do I?
Every day I worry, in general, about the task of proving my social ability; which when you look at it from the real world, either is an impossible task or requires a lot of boundary-busting and creepy behavior to attain.
You see, for almost 20 years now our society has been on a tear about the salubrious health effects of social relationships. To the point where some studies make the case that loneliness is as bad for you as alcoholism, or even worse for you than smoking.
Parallel that with our decreasing tolerance for those who don't seem to get along. They're less employable, we make more negative assumptions about their mental health, we diagnose them and put them in special classes and likely on a track that could determine the rest of their lives.
I have always thought there was a connection between the jump in kids being placed on the autism spectrum, and the endless parade of pop health and pop psychology magazines blaring about loneliness will drop cortisol bombs on our coronary arteries.
Look at the jobs we haven't outsourced-- they're mostly service industry jobs. In other words, jobs where emotional labor, salesmanship, and self-presentation are the most sought-after job skills. Since these are the most valuable job skills now, is it any wonder our society doesn't value being an intellectual as much as we think it should? Really, you'd be better off being beautiful... and of course, spending as much time and money as possible to attain attractiveness.
Oh, of course that's easier if you're already wealthy. Would rather save your money for retirement, a vacation, or a new house? How about paying down that student loan debt? Too bad! Shut up and spend the money; because attractiveness is what sells; and every job in America is a sales job now, and if you want to keep your career you've got to make investments in yourself...
Humans are social creatures. And we make decisions based on our emotions and instincts, above all.
But why do our instincts always seem to want the most conventional? The most privileged? The most stereotypical?
I read an article that finally makes me believe in the nobility of our instincts, that makes me think I can trust them again... and then I remember that our instincts are a large part of what is keeping us prejudiced. Of what is making us keep privilege in place; because for so many of us, that's quite literally our livelihood. Of what is prodding us to choose comfortability above all, and therefore choose the conventional and the familiar person to be with.
How do we keep the good about instincts and shun the bad? That's probably going to be our hardest task as progressives...
Those endlessly trumpeting the benefits of social connection are right, of course. Right enough. We do feel better when we have friends. We do have more opportunities in life and grow into broader, more worldly-capable people.
But where they break down and become wrong, is in how you prove you have good social skills.
You see, this is where their fatal flaw comes into being: You cannot control other people's feelings about you or behavior towards you. And anyone who says you can-- that through the magic power of your self-presentation you can change minds and influence people, not just increase the chance of favorability towards you, but actually get more socially favorable outcomes for yourself-- is just selling you a slightly more sophisticated variety of snake oil.
Because other people have free choice. They have their own reasons to choose to be a part of your life-- or not to be a part of your life. As do you, with others. Every relationship, therefore, no matter how superficial; is the result of a happy serendipity and/or a mutual choice of the part of all parties involved to like each other, and to back each other up.
Or at least, it should be. There's an awful lot of relational coercion going around. Far too many, especially sexual, relationships lack a foundation of enthusiastic consent. But why stop at romantic/sexual relationships? Why shouldn't all friendships and relationships be founded on a principle of mutual, affirmative consent? That would be the most respectful of everyone's feelings and agency as human beings.
But that's not likely to happen, as long as our society keeps blaring "MUST. GET. LIKEABILITY. POINTS. NOW!!!!!" and therefore puts pressure on us to "close the deal" with other people at all costs.
When we're hearing that the best jobs and the best health belong to the popularity contest winners, we will do literally anything to get there... including coerce unwilling people into relationships or sex with us, or join toxic megachurches or even cults. Because we hear every day that our survival demands that we perform and prove sociability. And when were too busy surviving... we're NOT doing things like organizing for change, working for a better future, even stopping to think about which life choices are really the best for us.
Lest we forget, the corporatist state LOVES us to be in constant survival mode...
We tend to forget just how much coercion and duress go on in our everyday relationships, how much compromise of our core values we make to keep our loved ones loving us. We enter into unspoken contracts with each other, that we will be the person they want us to be, and in return we will get their companionship and allegiance. Another sad transactional model of relating to each other, just with a loftier tone.
I say, stop this madness! It's causing us unnecessary stress, and keeping us from really enjoying other people; which is more likely to lead to that state of enthusiastic consent.
Yes, especially, I am talking to YOU, employers. Because your choice of "best fits for the job" is perhaps THE biggest driver of our cultural values, in this uncertain jobs climate.
Stop turning likeability into a competition-- in this fight, simply because our instincts prefer the familiar and comfortable, we are guaranteed to pick the lizard-brained, stereotypical, privilege-protecting action. We are guaranteed to abandon the best of ourselves, and a better, more thinking way of relating to each other; because under stress our lizard brains have a built-in advantage over our higher brain functions. We are better people than that. Our progressive, egalitarian ideals demans we be better people than that.
Remember that each person has their own best level of social connectedness. Some are happy with only one or two friends, some need 20. We need to get out of the habit of believing that one way of living-- and therefore one person-- is better than the other, unless we're talking about moral and empathetic factors. Is the person treating others with respect? Are they promoting philosophies that increase our collective personal liberty? Are they operating their relational lives as free from coercion as possible? Those are the most important considerations to keep in mind.
And most of all, get it into your heads that we cannot control how other people are going to perceive us. We, at best, have only a small amount of influence over the outcome. And that means that our social skills and our personalities should NOT be blamed and vilified; if we were just acting normally, and just not on the receiving end of other people's affirmative free choice.
Other people have free choice. Sometimes that choice is not going to be in our favor. That is life. Which is a lot easier to deal with when we're not blaming ourselves for failing to control the uncontrollable.