Have you noticed how lately, it seems that every hyped movie is centered around a sociopath? This indicates a strong cultural consciousness regarding sociopathy most likely due to the increasing prevalence of this personality disorder. 20% of people are sociopaths with the frequency being much higher in metropolitan cities. We’ve all known them. I placed the sociopaths in my life on a pedestal because of how they were able to wrap everyone around their little finger without feeling an ounce of guilt or remorse. Their state of mind seemed so liberating especially to myself, someone who is constantly thinking about how my actions will affect others.
Our society is oriented towards creating success for a sociopath — someone who can charm, deceive, or manipulate to get where they want in life, whether it be in business or relationships. In their wake, they leave damaged individuals that were disposed of after they no longer were useful to the sociopath’s agenda. Healthy individuals have a conscience to prevent harm to others, yet sociopaths don’t have anything stopping them. Their strength is largely due to how we define success, usually in the form of status and material gain, both of which are easy for a sociopathic mindset to achieve. Our societal expectations inadvertently create antisocial tendencies, but that’s not all that’s encouraging its expression. There’s an even more potent reason for sociopathy’s sudden pervasiveness.
Technology creates a disconnection. Our real emotions are substituted with emoji. Our nuanced tone is denoted only by caps lock and exclamation marks. We’re on our phones while we’re hanging out with our friends. We replace presence with communicating via text or chat. We replace experiencing a moment with capturing it on Instagram. Our thoughts we truncate to fit 140 characters. Authentic expression and rapport are lost on us and often times can make us uncomfortable. I’ll never forget what a teacher once said, “we used to just go to each other’s houses to see each other. When everyone got phones, we called each other to check if we could go visit our friends. Now, we text each other to see if we can call each other to arrange to see each other, and most often, we don’t see each other at all.” We are in a constant state of alienation, yet it feels so natural that we aren’t even aware of it.
This alienation becomes an inability to feel which fosters harmful behavior. The natural form of this alienation is a sense of loneliness and need to connect, but every state of being when felt in extremes becomes discordant with its original intentions. Take for example the phenomenon when you get close to someone and suddenly everything about them bothers you. It was Georg Groddeck who said “You will never go wrong in concluding that a man has once loved deeply whatever he hates, and loves it yet; that he once admired and still admires what he scorns, that he once greedily desired what now disgusts him.”
Unable to tune in to our own emotional responses, we become tuned out to others’ responses as well. We stop caring what other people feel and then we stop considering that others have feelings entirely. Our digitally created personas allow us to not feel accountable for our actions. People become replaceable options that only serve whatever purpose we want in the moment thanks to all sorts of apps. We become depersonalized through our isolation that we lose touch with our own humanity and thus become self serving individuals unable to appreciate what can give us more abundance than status or material wealth can. We are social creatures, we need to connect to thrive.
It’s a cycle that perpetuates the one thing we want to avoid. We’re so used to it, so afraid of it, so consumed by it that we create the very alienation that broke us. We need to actively allow ourselves to feel for others and work hard to hone this ability. Empathy and awareness are antidotes to the damage created by the digital age. Once we work on developing our empathy, our own awareness and awareness of others, that’s when we can be truly open and receptive to other people. Not only will we benefit as individuals, but we can also negate antisocial patterns that inflict real damage. Let’s stop living in disconnected artifice and start striving for authenticity.
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