a A few weeks ago, I was shopping at my local gardening store here in Asheville, North Carolina, when I received some unsolicited advice about preparing for the apocalypse.
The woman on the register told me, “You have to harvest the seeds for whatever food you want to eat so you can grow your own.” She went on to explain that she had heard that all grocery stores would be closing thanks to a combination of COVID-19, inflation and social unrest, so she was growing her own food to survive when America became, in her words, “free for all.”
There is certainly much to fear in the modern world, but the complete collapse of a society of such magnitude as described by the employee seems unlikely. While her fears are indeed valid, I see the intensity of her fear and torment escalating as an indication that there is a The broader ‘basement’ mentalitya manifestation of what some Psychiatrists have called it “common psychosis.” As increasing numbers of people live in an alternate reality and prepare for doomsday scenarios by building isolated outposts, hoarding supplies, and living off the grid.
The trap, of course, is that you can spend your entire life arranging for the end of times rather than enjoying the limited time you have. And while there are many forces contributing to its spread lately, I suspect a lot of doomsday paranoia stems from loneliness – an ongoing condition. The problem that the COVID pandemic has made worse.
The Research John Cassiobo, a social neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, explains that when people feel lonely, they also feel insecure. Although they may not actually be in any kind of physical danger, extended isolation causes the mind-body system to start looking for threats and setting off warning signals. This leads to high stress hormones, high blood pressure, poor sleep quality and Some research indicatesIncreased risk of premature death.
Unity tends to build on itself. Dr. Casiobo have found That when someone is alone for an extended period of time, they become more susceptible to further isolation, which in turn makes them more lonely – and therefore more anxious, insecure and fearful. This may be exacerbated by a vicious economy in which those who struggle to make it have little or no time to build society, and those at the top often suffer from a status-driven work addiction, which also crowds out time for socializing. In fact, a Study 2021 Posted in British Journal of Psychology She found that “neoliberalism can reduce well-being by promoting feelings of social separation, competition, and loneliness.”
These results mirror what I found in the reports for my last bookAnd the earthing practice: When we constantly focus on the next thing and try to gain a comparative advantage, we generally don’t build good connections. We often prioritize productivity over people, and improvement over society. This may sound good in the short term but it tends to leave us worse in the long term.
Uprooting and its effects on society
The diversity of loneliness we experience today is both broad and profound, along the lines of what mid-20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt called “uprooting.” Uprooting describes the experience of being separated not only from others but also from yourself. When you become too distracted – when life is going crazy and crazy – you lose the ability to think about your thoughts; You feel as though you’re never really here, never there, and you’re always all over the place. Not only do you become isolated from others, but you also become isolated from a deeper sense of yourself. In her 1951 book, The origins of totalitarianismArendt suggests that this kind of uprooting leads to tribalism and, worse, totalitarianism. She wrote that extremist movements allow people to “escape disintegration and confusion.” “The isolation of dispersed individuals provides the collective basis for totalitarian rule.”
Another 1951 book, true believerAnd the By the philosopher Eric Hoffer, it posits that “the fanatic is always incomplete and insecure,” and that “self-alienation” is a prerequisite for joining a mass ideological movement.
Recent research supports Arendt and Hoover’s assertions. 2020 study Published in the magazine Group handling and intergroup relationships She found that social exclusion is a major factor behind extremism. A 2021 study by researchers at RAND have found Unity is one of the dominant reasons for people to adopt extremist views and join extremist groups. a study Published earlier this year in the magazine political psychology It found that “weak social affiliation is associated with an increased likelihood of voting for populist parties,” especially on the right.
Perhaps the only thing that has changed since the days of Arendt and Hoover are the sources of our uprooting and their increasing density. The attention economy, and most notably social media, constantly distracts us and fuels anger and division, with real communication replaced by superficial and shallow variety. Today’s political discourse plays a valid role in the tendency of algorithms to be angry and hostile. Research It shows that divisive and angry posts perform better on social media platforms than quiet posts.
In other words, millions of Americans spend hours staring at screens with programs that undermine our ability to focus and think deeply — all while stimulating fear and division. All this unfolds under the guise of “connection” that actually looks more like a breakup.
Is it any surprise, then, that we are seeing a file? highly polarized society, with the rise of totalitarian tendencies on the right, and intragroup versus group conflicts on the left? (To be clear, the first is much more dangerous, but the second It’s realAnd the very.)
There may also be a rural-urban divide, with rural areas tending to be more isolated, adding, for some, to paranoia and fear. in her book Hope in the darkAnd the Essay writer Rebecca Solnett captures this brilliantly, writing that “people already isolated in suburbs and other lonely landscapes, far from crime, and prime targets of war or terrorism, are more susceptible to these fears, which seem not spurious but are homeless.” She goes on to admit. that their fear is real, but its subject is wrong: “In this sense, it is a safe fear, because acknowledging the true sources of fear [isolation and loneliness] It may be frightening in and of itself, and invites radical questioning, and radical change.”
Loneliness It is a social and political problem as well
What do you do about this? From a policy perspective, it would be wise to focus on loneliness not only as a public health problem but as a social and political problem as well. We must also realize that our lives become Increasingly automated and improvedWhat Ross calls Douthat “The Age of Algorithm,” Chances of creativity, mind wandering, and socializing will increase in real life. As a result, people are more likely to feel more isolated and lonely, and therefore more fearful and vulnerable to extremist thoughts and movements.
As individuals, we have to understand that the economy of interest separates us from others and even ourselves. Simply think about the quality of your mind at the end of the day when you were drawn into a rabbit hole of social media. I call this the “Internet mind,” and anyone who has tried it—and that means just about everyone—understands the fog, the general irritability, the inability to focus on anything from the depth, and the psychedelic fatigue I’m talking about.
Now, perhaps more than ever, we have to make sure that we protect time and prioritize staying connected with our neighbors, our communities and ourselves – to focus on developing a consistent and consistent feeling groundinglest we get lost in the whirlwind and risk becoming one of Arendt’s “loners and lonely people”, waiting for the end of times in the basement, constantly clicking on any train wreck that goes on the Internet, sowing the seeds of loneliness and despair.
This is not good for you – or anyone.
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