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If You Can Answer This Question, Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True

A few days ago I was having a conversation with my sister. She's trying to figure some things out. I'm sure she will eventually, but in the meantime she's going through a twenty-something-university-graduate-with-an-existentialist crisis period. Not that there's an age limit on those..
"You gotta do what's right for you." I told her.
"But that's the thing, that's what I've been doing!" And indeed she'd been off to places working, volunteering, learning, you name it, all in the name of herself. It's what we all do. Now that we're living in the age of personal branding, it's even more about doing what's best for ourselves. It's pretty much what we all do all the time, and yet, the doubts and unfulfilled expectations prevail.

"You know what, forget it," I told her, "maybe the real question is, 'what can you do for others?'"
"Yeaaah, exaaaactly!" She talks with lots of drawn out vowels, my dear sis. "Everyone's so set on doing what best for themselves and telling me the same thing, but it's not enough, you know."
"I know." I replied socratically. "Imagine what kind of world this would be if people were brought up with the mentality that they have to do what's best for others."
"That's what I need to figure out." She said.

It's no easy task figuring it out. If it were we'd be some sort of very socially-advanced species living in a Utopian world. Still, just because something's hard to figure out doesn't make it irrelevant, in fact it's that much more important to decipher. I know this much, as humans we all have questions that need to be answered. We now have the internet for lots of those answers, but Google can't ever tell us what we're meant to do in life, why we're here, or what happens after we're gone. Those answers are all very personal and possibly incomprehensible to our worldly minds. Most of all, Google can't even tell us what question(s) we should be asking. Is it all about what's best for myself, or what's best for others?

It looks like we may be moving towards the latter. Ironically enough, social media and the personal branding trend are playing a big role in getting us there.

The majority of twitter and Facebook users do it the primitive way; me, me, me. "I went here, I did this, I ate that." Great, everyone thinks you're awesome.  But among that noise, those that stand out do so because they distribute content for others not to others. Take checking-in as an example, if we deconstruct it, it's a simple act of broadcasting a non-relevant piece of information that offers no real value to those who are made aware of it (Facebook shareholders appreciate it though). On the other hand, there are the few social networkers who prefer to distribute content whose value can be measured in terms of relevance or benefit to others. Telling everyone what you ate for dinner is about you, in no way does it benefit somebody else. Posting an article about a new discovery does the opposite; it asks for an opinion and stimulates discussion about something other than yourself.

There is more though. It is said that at the bottom of every human decision there is selfish motivation. Even when you want to help others you're doing it because you want to feel better about yourself - therefore you're still selfish. This social media stuff is not that different. Sharing for others is great, but it's still about self-interest; your personal brand, your Klout score, or just collecting lots of Likes. Still, the non-relevant types are stuck in a self-centered vacuum of emptiness and, well, irrelevance.

I find it fascinating that this is happening online, because it actually reflects very accurately on our 'real-life' dynamic. It shows that we're all self-interested, but that not all of us are self-centered. As people post relevant content, the self-centered crowd will begin to realize that it's a better game than the one they've been playing and may even desire to change their tune. I've kept a close eye on Facebook and noticed how, over time, people have progressed in this manner.  This leads me to believe that some fundamental values of self-worth will begin to shift, from 'me' to 'you'. The relevant sharers will want to take their relevance offline into the real world -some already do. Most of these types appear well-intentioned and bent on positive change in society for its own sake.Once they're offline they may no longer have the benefit of Klout scores or Likes, but that's because a real 'thank you' is worth more than any analytically generated virtual score. 

Idealism at its best, but honestly, why not? If the definition of insanity is to do the same thing while expecting different results, we must all be crazy to keep doing what's best for ourselves without giving the obvious alternative a shot.

I don't always add videos to my posts, but when I do, they're relevant:




Comments

  1. Lol! drawn-out vowels is a good way to describe how i speak. anyway, idealism seems to run in our family. but good idealism, not the "i'm gonna get married, buy a big house and live happily every after idealism." hope we can make apply this mentality of serving others in our own lives so that it doesn't remain an ideal but becomes a reality!

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