I’ll start with a tangent (can you begin with a tangent? If you’re starting with it, by definition it’s the thing your discussing. Anyway): today in the American Northeast, January is wearing the look that earned it its street cred: impossibly depressing wet snow that can’t even reach the muddy dead grass without corroding into slush, a thick sheet of gun-metal gray skies, and temperatures that can’t even be bothered to go extremes. Anyways it occurred to me today that, round these parts, there is no surer sign that your inner child, citing poor working conditions, has left you than in the tonal difference you use when you see snow falling. A child’s jubilant “Oh boy!” Has curdled into the adult’s grimly resigned, “Oh boy.”
Which got me thinking that (I guess it wasn’t much of a tangent after all) that maybe what causes so many of us living in Western Society to feel the ever-tightening squeeze of depression and anxiety isn’t simply late capitalism (although, yes), or social media (Jesus, yes. And don’t bother pointing out the irony of my using social media to be critical of it; my life is a constant DEFCON FIVE state of readiness to intercept all hints of irony) or even, well, I honestly don’t know all the reasons, or even the key reason, assuming there is one, for all this formless dread, which I’m skeptical about. But one possible proximate cause that’s been overlooked (by me; I’m sure others haven’t) is the degree to which the world strips modern life of context.
News channels spin rather than report, which which requires removing context. Facebook and Instagram curate only the most unrealistic patina of happiness and success to project to the world. Unless we know these people literally in three dimensions, we can’t really get to anything like the truth of their lives (I originally typed “lies”’ there. a Freudian typo). Even that is an aspirational goal.
And Twitter, comes from an old Norse worse meaning, “Nuance goes to die.”
Faced with all of these forces, and with either a plethora of free time or not a minute to stop and breathe and evaluate, we are robbed of any real context of ourselves. The way we live our lives now strips us of the thing we used to not even be conscious of, but we need to survive, like breathing or good cell coverage. And without context, you’re looking at yourself in a funhouse mirror – you’re looking at the whole world that way, but transformation has been so incremental we’ve likely failed to notice.
I’m not saying that’s the whole answer. How would I even know that without proper context? I’m just wondering if it isn’t at least a part of it.