You know that I don't like social media, so what the heck was I doing over on LinkedIn yesterday?
Truth is, I'm too much of a wallflower for my own good.
I made a promise to myself to show up somewhere in public (including "virtual public") at least once a day for the next month.
Right this second, LinkedIn seems like the least-bad option for that. So I thought.
What do I see, right on day one?
A post appears in my feed with someone complaining about people complaining about using "selfies" in their posts.
(Read that twice if you need to.)
I glanced at the post. Yes, I too am susceptible to the magnetic attraction of the Drama Pit.
I don't even need to tell you what it said. You've seen it 100s of times.
"You can't tell me what to do with myself stale white guy I'm free and authentic!"
[Attach duck-face photo in revealing outfit]
Followed by dozens of high-five das rite girl!!1 comments.
Did you know that this is a professional site for networking and business deals?
Far be it from me to tell anybody what to do with they ownselves.
Freedom is an important value.
Freedom as autonomy and as authentic self-determination.
I'm the last one to argue against that. I loves me some freedom.
But freedom has wrenched itself all out of shape in our WEIRD culture.
Nothing to do with HP Lovecraft's weird tales (I wish)
WEIRD = Western Educated Industralised Rich and Developed
It means us Western liberalized folks. Who are, indeed, uniquely weird people compared against the majority of humans who have ever taken breath on this planet.
Free we may be -- we could pretend until the last 2 years -- but we've got a dirty secret.
Many people living under the "free to be me!" mantra are lonely, alienated from themselves and other people, and looking to fill that void with external validation.
"I'm an authentic individual!" they shout, while conforming to every fad and fashion put in front of them by the ad-men.
You can script these encounters to the last letter. How free are you, really, when your every action and thought is predictable?
Has this really made us any happier?
Here's an idea for you to think on.
Freedom is the individual's power to choose and to act on the decision.
But every one of us is faced with an overwhelming set of choices. Every moment, there's an infinite number of things you could do.
You're paralyzed by choice.
And not only that.
If choice is absolute, then no option is any different than any other.
It doesn't matter what you do.
Choose you may... and so what?
In conversation a few years ago with one of my professors who worked on virtue ethics, she said something that made my jaw drop.
"It's fine to be free, but you can use that freedom well or use it badly."
It's so obvious when you hear somebody else say it.
Freedom can used for cowardly, cruel, wicked purposes.
Or it can be used to feed the poor and rescue children from burning high-rises.
Us WEIRDos take freedom as the best and finest thing, the source of all meaning and goodness.
But it's empty.
Choice for the sake of choice carries no further meaning.
And that's pretty underwhelming.
So underwhelming that record numbers get lost in opioid addictions, doomscrolling, 22 hours of daily video games, gambling, and some sad souls decide to end it all. Because why not? Life, death, it doesn't make any difference either way.
You might as well thirst-trap on social media and tell yourself its empowering.
Humans are creatures of meaning. When we don't find meaning, we create it. That's where we get art, music, religion, all that "culture" stuff.
When that's gone, and we feel no purpose to our choices, it gets touchy.
We get... weird.
If you're looking for answers, I don't have them. Sorry. I'm still looking for myself.
You can take some small comfort in the knowledge that simply being aware of the question puts you ahead of the curve.
And you can always dig deeper over in Night's Gate. Drop in and let me know what's on your mind.
Be good & take it easy.
PS – If you want an invite to Night's Gate, you can get your own at this link: