February 13, 2019

How We Behave Can Sometimes Lead Us to Feel Alone

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It is not at all uncommon for people to feel alone even when they are surrounded by others. I've certainly felt that way a number of times. Maybe there are some good reasons for that. Ultimately, we are alone. Nobody will ever understand exactly what it is like to be who we are or see the world exactly the same way we do. Some will come close, but nobody will match up perfectly. At the same time, I doubt that any of us are nearly as complex and deep as we tend to think we are. The issue probably isn't that we are too complicated to figure out; it is just that people differ in so many ways that most of us will never find our ideological clone.

When I read Cephus' (Bitchspot) recent post, Standing Alone, two thoughts went through my mind. The first was fairly mundane, and I already hinted at it in the opening paragraph. Most of us probably feel the way he described at times, especially when it comes to our social and political views. Many of us have, for example, complained about feelings of political homelessness. We aren't always sure where we fit in or even if we fit in. This can be unsettling. My second thought, well...that's bound to be a bit more controversial. It seems like some people behave in ways that make it far more likely they will feel alone.

Cephus has written many posts in which he labels those who do not see eye-to-eye with him on various socio-political issues in negative ways. In the post to which I linked above, we learn:

  • People he encounters on social media who express support for his ideas ("come and pat me on the back") are "idiots."
  • Those on the "anti-liberal side" are "flat-earth, racist, alt-right idiots..."
  • Those on the "anti-religious side" are "hard-core leftist, SJW loons with delusions of grandeur."
Perhaps labeling almost everyone one encounters as "idiots" of some variety is a recipe for feeling alone. At least, it seemed to do that for me when I did it.

There have been times when I've stopped reading a post at Bitchspot mid-way through because I tired of the "liberals are idiots" shtick. When I go looking for reasonable discourse and find name-calling and overgeneralization instead, I tend to move on. Of course, I recognize that others may not react that way. There is a market for both liberal-bashing and conservative-bashing. But if I were to go looking for either, I would not expect those doing it to be paragons of reason. Instead, I'd expect them to have some of the characteristics Cephus describes.

I'd guess that most people do not enjoy being attacked by those who declare that their views amount to "stupidity." I'd also guess that most of those who attack others with such accusations are not terribly reasonable in their own views. Thus, it would not surprise me to find that those doing a lot of this were not the sort of people whose company I would enjoy.

For me, whether someone holds the same socio-political views as I do is far less important as whether he or she behaves in a reasonable manner. I can learn a great deal from reasonable people, including those who hold different opinions. Because of that, I'd prefer to spend my time with them than those who are unreasonable but hold more similar views. Of course, the only way this works is for me to accept that sharing my views does not define what it means to be reasonable. Sharing my opinions does not necessarily make someone any more reasonable, and holding different opinions does not necessarily make someone any less reasonable. If I pretend otherwise, then I am the one who is being unreasonable.

There is no question that freethought can be a lonely path. Going out of one's way to slap pejorative labels on everyone who holds different opinions or attempting to define what it means to be reasonable as the degree to which others agree with us are bound to make it far lonelier. Perhaps reflecting on how we come across to others could be one helpful strategy for reducing our feelings of alienation.