I love my action figures and collectibles. I’m completely involved in following various sports. I enjoy working on my fitness. Movies and books offer a lot of joy. And if you throw in a pet dog, a bottomless bank balance, a few mansions, a private jet or two, pizza home delivery on a daily basis, weekly massages, and perpetual luxury trips, one would think that I have all the ingredients to lead a joyous and entertaining life. However, I must admit that despite the enthralling picture this scenario paints, what we really crave is good solid people and relationships in our lives. As much as we hate to admit our dependency on the people around us (because apparently, that goes against the definition of being independent), we are all connected emotionally, physically, and mentally with each other. And after the initial burst of exhilaration we may experience while spending time away from these delightfully annoying homosapiens, their absence sucks the life out of us over time.
‘Man is a social animal’ is a concept that we learn at a very young age. I am an economics student, which is a social science. And if you look beyond the theories and numbers, economics really is interactions between people at an individual level, a global level, and everything in between.
Of course, the idea of being social these days is vastly prominent on social media sites where love, affection, friendship, and care might be superfluous at best. I get the sense that our expression of feeling towards others has become more of a social media contest to let the world know how much we care more than the person that the message is actually intended for. If we want to post a picture with our mother, we will click at least a dozen photos and then choose the one in which we look the best even if our mom looks like she is about to fall asleep in the picture (If we had just smiled genuinely in the first picture as opposed to pouting and trying different angles, the picture would have been amazing at the onset). We send birthday and anniversary greetings on Facebook and WhatsApp even to the people that really matter. We keenly take pictures of all the dishes that arrive at our table, promptly post them on Instagram and monitor the feedback from our followers continuously. All this while we have had said less than a handful of words to the person across the table. It’s not like the eggs benedict we had was unique and superior to the ones others have eaten over the course of their lives. I also see a barrage of ‘best dad’, ‘best husband’, ‘best wife’, ‘best Martian’ and a host of other posts on social media. Really? How many dads, husbands, and wives have you had? If the answer is one then I’m sorry, you do not have a case. What are you comparing to? Now that this rant is out of the way, let’s move on.
Let’s face it people, we are lost in the social media gobbledygook and our relationships are slowly but surely losing sheen. We are unable to fathom why people feel the way they do anymore because interacting with, studying, and understanding people is becoming a dying art. Apparently, it’s what the experts like coaches, psychologists, trainers, and the human resources departments at companies do. Sure these people serve an important role in society but it doesn’t take an IQ of 140 to realize that your friend is angry or your mother is upset. Heck, we can’t tell if someone has a cold unless they post ‘sniff’ on their Facebook status (These have got to be the most ridiculous status updates. How much attention do we want?).
While communication is meant to be one of man’s most formidable strengths since our inception, it is exactly what we fear and avoid today. With added pressures, loss of simplicity, a fast-paced atmosphere, and the zeal to get ahead (even if we must trample on others), we have given up on personal communication. We can write terrific professional emails but can’t convey to the management how we feel about the toxic work environment. We know how good our subordinate is at number crunching but don’t know whether that task makes him happy or not (Because we’re being paid to keep our mouth shut and do the work. And then we wonder why the attrition rate is so high despite a fancy work environment and great pay scales). We know our mom is a great homemaker but fail to see (or avoid) that she is losing her joy in this thankless rigmarole. We hear the words coming out of a friend’s mouth but fail to notice the love in his eyes. We notice the melody in our cousin’s singing but not the pain in her voice.
If our friend doesn’t call us for a few days (because he always calls), we descend upon him with fury when we do speak. But how often do we try to see the reason for their silence? They may have been low and may have needed to hear from us instead. Our brother may do everything to protect and care for us, but it’s something we take for granted and will get upset the one time he thinks about himself first. We fight on WhatsApp because we lack the spine or just want to avoid the trouble of doing it face-to-face.
We are smart enough to realize what others feel because we feel these things too. However, we avoid acknowledging feelings that challenge our egos, make us uncomfortable, or put us in a dilemma. We incoherently assign roles to ourselves and those in our lives. While we take on the more comfortable ones, our loved ones have to bear the brunt of the more tasking ones. We expect them to understand how we feel even if we don’t communicate, but are quick to point out that we didn’t understand them as they didn’t bother communicating. Parents are meant to tolerate, friends are meant to understand, spouses are meant to support, bosses are meant to chill (even if we’ve bungled six assignments in a row), and dogs are meant to wag their tails. Even if the joker in our life has an off day or two it’s considered to be a cardinal sin. If you know how one feels about you, expresses it with love and kindness, and if you decide to let him wait in endless anticipation to know how you feel, think again. We are meant to continue doing what we do because that’s who we are, and if people can’t understand, well too bad. Everyone else is meant to be flexible and mollycoddle us.
We refuse to express or care enough to compel our loved ones to express what they feel so that we can all support and help each other. So that we can introduce genuine happiness, security, and comfort in each other’s lives. So that we can use the one skill as the only species blessed to have on this planet.
We rather assume, which invariably leads to misunderstanding.
Assumption is the mother of…yes you got it. Go wish people in person, smile at them more often, express what you feel, tell your cat a joke, hug a sad friend, be nice to your parents, appreciate your children, and communicate in the most expressive and creative ways you can. And express now, because regret is a very heavy burden to live with.
People in our lives don’t drag us out of our comfort zone. They are our comfort zone.