Thursday, 8 November 2012

Your social life is overrated

This planet is full of beauty and intelligence and exquisite differences wherever you look. You can find inspiration and new ideas in the most obscure places. Think back to a time when you were forced to take that 40 minute walk in the rain instead of the bus because you lost your purse and I will bet all the change in my pocket (this statement is just for effect I don't actually carry change in my pocket I have a purse so that would be silly!) that you had something awoken in you. A reminder of times when you go out in the rain on purpose because you wanted to feel the water on your face, and how it made you want to splash in the puddles and run around like you did when you were six. I'll bet you actually enjoyed it. There is after all only so wet you can get! It is always an enlightening experience when you are forced to do something seemingly with no reason and end up getting lost in the moment. Think about it, in your childhood why did you ever do anything? It was never for a reason and you never ever asked why. I mean you might have asked why is the sky blue or why is the grass green but I'll bet you never asked your friend why do you want to play on the slide. It was obvious because it was an experience. If you never had the experience before then that was all the more reason to do it. Unfortunately though in your adult life you get trained into being afraid of new experiences. Fear of course has its purposes and should not be ignored but considering how safe our world actually is now in comparison even to fifty years ago it seems strange that the level of fear in people has actually risen. We have great medicine now, and we have stringent health and safety checks for buildings, vehicles and public spaces. Everything that is likely to have a lot of people involved in or using it, is likely to have been checked so thoroughly for possible dangers that you would have to get really creative in order to harm yourself in anyway. And yet even in light of all this modern technology and insight we are afraid to let our children play in the street or to climb up onto a fence in case they slip and break an arm etc. We have actually just become hyper vigilant instead and handed over responsibility from the discretion of the individual, to a risk assessment test. The result is constant fear of the unknown and the unchecked. This is of course not entirely our own fault because have you ever tried ignoring the warnings and going ahead and doing the dangerous thing anyway? What happens is somebody immediately saves you from yourself. They scream out stop you cant go in there it's dangerous you'll hurt yourself, and come running to your aid and to drag you from harms way. Its quite distracting actually and the sudden intervention might be the very thing that causes you to harm yourself ironically enough. But I digress. The point is that the world itself is nothing to be afraid of it is more likely other people that you should be afraid of.

Now getting to the point of a social life and what purpose that serves for us. In your childhood it's to have a partner in crime, and to have people with which to share you experience with. This is important to my point so remember that sentence. The people that you choose as friends as children, are often measured by there fear (or lack of) for new experiences. What I mean by that is you subconsciously go towards people who want to try the same things as you do and who have similar levels of tolerance for them. There are nuances of course between physical, social, and intellectual experience but you get the picture. So you are not going to hang out with people who constantly do things that scare you senseless. You are going to hang back and find other people who are fearful like you and don't force you to do big scary things all the time. The same of course though works vice-versa. You are equally not going to want to hang out with people who are afraid to try new things if you are the brave one because eventually you will become resentful and feel that they are holding you back. It is this fundamental underlying motive that drives all social interaction. The sharing of experience. So of course this only becomes a problem when people are mismatched in life. Its the tyranny of the majority. By the time you get to secondary school for example you are pretty much expected to like and want to like the same the things as the majority of people do and if you are anywhere above or below this line of accepted behavior then you will be outcast and left to enjoy your experience on your own. Sometimes that is a good thing because it allows you to experience life on your terms but I will get to that point later.

We all start to learn as teenagers and probably younger than that even, that there is an accepted level of fear. Girls should be afraid of spiders, dirt, and excessive physical exertion, and boys should be afraid of crying in front of people and the wider range of emotions in general. (I obviously didn't get that memo). This is all rather general and outdated I know but the point is there is a kind of benchmark that we are being measured against all the time. I am female and to be honest am afraid of very little, I am not afraid of heights, heavy machinery, fighting, wild animals, or dirt. Unfortunately I am pretty weird about the spiders thing but then again so are my brothers! Regardless of the social cultural shift that has happened post feminism, a lot of the old stereotypes remain and people are still surprised of my fearlessness in general when they get to know me, and often put it down to some sort of unnatural disposition that I must have and be unaware of. This is fine now because I have come to terms with the fact that is the way that the world works, but it is actually very restricting because it leaves me feeling as though I have to pass for normal with regards to my hopes and fears. And there are so many people that I speak to that feel the need to pass for normal when it comes to fear or lack of for any given experience. It is a real shame because other peoples reactions are what we fear more than the actual event and how they will treat us if we reveal our true identities (Batman couldn't exist without the mask).

This is why I think that your social life is overrated. Having to check back with your peer group or in fact any near by human being that what you are doing is acceptable to the wider majority can be an almost cripplingly slow process. How is any one supposed to learn about the world or there own level of comfort within it if they have to go through this rigmarole day in day out. It is frankly ridiculous. To the loners out there this is a lesson that they learned long ago. They have already given up on the checks and balances and enjoy a whole world free from the judging eyes of the masses. It seems to me no coincidence that great genius and leaps of consciousness in the world have more often than not been born of solitude. So perhaps the key to true creativity is to be found on ones own after all.  And Now for my final trick! of tying this all in to Design.

Everything that you design is for someone other than yourself to look at and interact with. You have to do a lot of guess work in trying to get to a place where you understand the mind of the viewer. That however is just yet another layer of the people pleasing machine and another step away from experience for experiences sake. Did I mention that your happiness depends on your ability to experience things in the moment? watch this link you'll see what I mean. but again I digress. After too long spent figuring out what it is that people like and don't like we sort of stagnate. And that is because we forget one key thing. People change there minds, and they change there minds so frequently that trying to keep up with what people do and do not like is pretty much futile. This is a battle that you will never win. Isn't it funny how the cool kids are usually the ones who don't give a crap whether or not people think what they are doing is cool or not? Not really, it is because they go with the moment and indulge in it regardless of the social consequences. It can be hard as a designer to just go with your gut and tell other people what they should and shouldn't like but all you can do is try. If you don't then you will be yesterdays news faster than you can say wait for me. You did after all get into this business most likely because somebody did something so out there and off the wall that it inspired you right? Well now it is your turn. don't bother asking your friends if what you are doing is right or not just feel it out. If it feels right to you right now then it is!

Oh and now for an apology for what has actually been an epic rant. I just had one of those days today where all of the above was running around my brain at a hundred miles and hour and I thought it best to share the juicy bits with you good people of the internet. Thanks for listening!

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