In the wake of the growing phenomena of online mobs dragging people to the pillory, often for the most ridiculously minor offenses, I’ve been thinking about what we can all do to be better than this, and the answer is we all need to go the fuck outside. This is not an original observation, of course. Viktor Frenkl made it a century ago in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Therefore, I’m going to let the man who survived Auschwitz do some of the explaining:
I turn to the detrimental influence of that feeling of which so many patients complain today, namely, the feeling of the total and ultimate meaninglessness of their lives. They lack the awareness of a meaning worth living for. They are haunted by the experience of their inner emptiness, a void within themselves; they are caught in that situation which I have called the “existential vacuum.”
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.
People who spend most of their time online are doing so because they’re living in an “existential vacuum.” Faced with a meaningless existence, they desperately search for a cause to latch onto, and there are plenty of causes. However, instead of devoting actual effort to their chosen cause, they only do what makes them comfortable. They spend all their time online screaming into the void. Then, when someone screams back, they’ve found an enemy, and in that enemy they’ve found a fight for the cause.
The problem is, it isn’t a real fight. It’s a fantasy, and since no one is doing this face to face, it becomes an ugly fantasy. Whether it’s MRAs or SJWs, they’re inventing strawmen to beat down and then verbally beating anyone who remotely resembles their chosen effigy of hate. The only thing this accomplishes is spewing more hatred into the world. In this light, any cause that originally seemed worthy becomes an unworthy one.
If these armchair warriors honestly gave a damn, they’d get off their butts and actually do something. Of course, there’s a real problem of some troglodytes finding their motivation by fighting – seeking “justice” for their twisted cause by going on a shooting spree or blowing stuff up. This shit happened before the internet, it’s true, but the internet is the perfect vector for finding like-minded diseased devils to massage your bitterness and hate.
When I say do something, I’m talking about volunteering. I’m talking about actually helping people. Face it, when you do nothing but talk, deep down you know yourself to be a hypocrite – one still living a meaningless existence – and this is what makes you spiteful and bitter. To once again quote Frenkl:
Fifty years ago, I published a study devoted to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in cases of young patients suffering from what I called “unemployment neurosis.” And I could show that this neurosis really originated in a twofold erroneous identification: being jobless was equated with being useless, and being useless was equated with having a meaningless life. Consequently, whenever I succeeded in persuading the patients to volunteer in youth organizations, adult education, public libraries and the like—in other words, as soon as they could fill their abundant free time with some sort of unpaid but meaningful activity— their depression disappeared although their economic situation had not changed and their hunger was the same. The truth is that man does not live by welfare alone.
Now, for those people who are so ill they can barely leave the house, I am telling you: you need to, with what little energy you have. As much as you may hate to believe it, an online community is not a replacement for one of flesh and blood. Without it, your empathy atrophies, because empathic communication is primarily physical in nature. Humans have congregated in circles and churches since the dawn because it fulfills a real human need. We are social animals. Without the social part, we just become animals.
It is not healthy to withdraw from friends and family because you get into disagreements. It is not healthy to avoid all contact with strangers because they make you uncomfortable. It is not healthy to build a wall around yourself so your views are never challenged. Navigating other people’s foibles builds character. Flexing your empathy muscles makes you a stronger person. Living in a bubble will turn you into a lump. Get out of the house, now.by