The intellect can seem like a safe realm to keep and examine ideas. However, if human interactions remain at that level, something is soon realized to be missing. Our response to suffering, ability to empathize and connect also are affected. In the age of social networking, what can we practically do to rise above it?
In a period of time when it is possible to interact with diverse ideas without a specific knowledge of the person behind them, a very easy and natural response is to become overly reliant on the intellect. It cannot be denied that a fascinating new world of ideas has opened up before us. It is not only by means of books or media productions like podcasts and videos but also in person-to-person engagement over social networks. And even though it is understood to be person-to-person, there remains a depersonalization due to the very volume of information and diversity of ideas. Aside from having a core group of individuals one can interact with on a continual basis, the rest of the interactions are by necessity at the level of ideas; thereby bringing the intellect into play. This isolation of and employment of the intellect is a particular kind of detriment to human beings. We are becoming or have already become less in tune with the qualities of empathy and kindness and more inclined to be unaffected. Such is the increase in objectivity – promoted by many as a dependable quality of excelling value – that the most obvious development is now before us. What is it? The dehumanization of human interaction and subsequently, the dehumanization of the humans involved in the interactions themselves. Aside from being sensitive to one’s own needs and worth, there is an absolute blindness toward the worth and needs of another. This is very common to see. As a result, there is the growth of narcissism. There is an extremely unhealthy focus on oneself, so much so that those personal thoughts and feelings become the only important factor in one’s existence. Yes, these developments are real but awareness of it even among the few is the light of our present world.
The intellect and human suffering
Human suffering was never meant to be measured and examined intellectually alone. By confining suffering to merely an idea, which is often seen by how people have learned to respond to endless bad news, humanity has suffered. One might also be tempted to conclude that mankind has matured in how it has learned to handle all suffering.
In this regard, let me share a little personal experience which I believe would have been experienced by others as well: My early day on Twitter involved following a very few accounts. Therefore, the amount of information was limited. Even in that limited volume of information, there were accounts related to individuals and those related to institutions. So the quality of engagement was more humane. As my interest grew and I started to follow more accounts, I could observe it becoming more and more difficult to have a deeper, meaningful, and humane engagement with those I interacted with. And of course, there is the barrier of conversation that naturally arises in interacting with complete strangers! 1, 2 In all of this, the volume of information remains a critical factor, because after a point, no matter how determined an individual is, tiredness starts to creep in. Later on, it starts to take the form of emotional exhaustion. Staying confined to the intellect, remaining objective is a protection against getting burnt-out.
We have entire generations experiencing the same thing. What we cannot deny is the effect. Could we believe that a period of rest would refresh a person enough to once again engage humanely, and at a level deeper than the intellect?
A safe assumption – a kind thing to remember
It is tempting to reach the conclusion that human beings are now less sensitive. Moreover, we may also be tempted to conclude that human beings now are not inclined to be sensitive toward others. Maybe a safe assumption at this time is simply to remember how tiredness affects people.
We have today, for the first time in history, each person able to interact with masses of other people and their ideas. The very concept is exhausting. It’s a God-like perspective. However, what we lack despite the means is limitless energy. The most loving, the most kind, the most caring person will eventually get tired after a short period of time on social networking platforms. To remain attached to the platform, the first thing to suffer is the quality of engagement. This is not a profound observation, but it quite simply is true. Tiredness begets shallowness. What we are beginning to witness is a shallowness in thought, in feeling, and even in spirit. The escape from such a state depends on individual choice.
Aside from the very nature of interaction through electronic mediums, a reconnection with our humanity is possible if we first pay a little attention to resting our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits. It is very possible, that the phenomenon of such a heavy reliance on the intellect could be balanced with more involvement of the emotions. To that end, there are some things we can try:
- Get rest.
- Set aside time for rejuvenation.
- Engage on social networks for manageable periods of time.
This may seem like an overly simplified solution and thus childishly ineffective, but as we are beginning to find out: some very basic truths still determine our humanity. Rest is one of them! 3
- Are there reliable ways of finding out the truth about a person on social networking? Part 2: conflicts
- Are there reliable ways of finding out the truth about a person on social networking? Part 1: imaginations
- Mark 6:31 New International Version (NIV) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”