Often in this hyper-connected world, we can feel as if we stand on a stage, with an audience of eight billion eyes, all staring, waiting to pass judgment.
We're social creatures and after eons of evolution, it is deeply embedded within our genetics to please the crowd—to win favor with the tribe.
However, we no longer live in the small communities of our ancestors, where competition was low; where standing out simply meant being the best among a few hundred individuals. We now live in a new-world, where our tribe has expanded to encompass all of humanity. It's a place in which one's personal achievements stand toe to toe in a digital marketplace facing the very cream of our species; we believe ourselves to be competing against the world's most beautiful, talented, spiritual and knowledgeable.
We all crave recognition: it's a core element of the human condition. Yet how can one fill this need when we are bombarded by an endless digital feed of curated polished perfection from around the globe?
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that diagnosis of depression is currently at an all time high, or that the politics of identity have become such an obsession amongst the young; how much easier it is to find meaning in the arbitrary accidents of our birth, rather than face the seemingly insurmountable challenge of being noticed, of being "important" among a crowd so large we cannot even conceptually grasp the number.
Maybe we're using the wrong yardstick?
It's a BIG World
Eight billion and growing. This is the population of planet earth today. Can the human mind really conceive how vast this is? Yet each day, our social feeds, YouTube videos and our internet searches filter through the vast and diverse cosmos of humanity to hand-pick a pixel of a fraction of a mote, bringing us the "very best" of what humanity has to offer. It's then portrayed as if this is "normal"—as if this is what we are to expect of ourselves. What a very beautiful illusion and hideous expectation we have woven for ourselves.
How convenient it is for those who wish to govern us, or for those wishing to sell products that will "improve life", that the bar has been set so very high. We all feel far from what we are told is perfect, we'll readily accept the help of anyone who claims to offer a solution.
As this web grows tighter, we may fool ourselves into believing that planet earth is, indeed, very small. How very claustrophobic we can feel, how much more terrifying life becomes when the atrocities and horrors of the entire world bombard our ancient, provincial brains; when the opinions and acts of complete strangers are delivered to us as if they were letters from a loved one.
We are social creatures, we empathize, we edit ourselves to find acceptance among the tribe. Yet when the physical barriers of distance have become almost meaningless, with the global homogeneous hand-picked feed entering each of our minds, how quickly our individuality and cultures can shrink, as we all struggle to ape the same role models, to mimic the best the world has to offer. We shrug off or ignore that which makes us genuinely unique in order to squeeze ourselves into an imaginary cookie-cutter.
Our technology is a marvel and our species ability to work together is astounding. We have solved so many of our oldest problems and we carry the world's finest knowledge, art, and wonders only a few clicks away in our pockets. Still, we must not forget that with each new solution, every new invention, comes a new set of challenges, new problems.
As the saying goes, 'You can't please all of the people all of the time', and how staggeringly true this really is when 'all of the people' refers to the entire population of our beautiful planet.
Unplug and Unwind
Sometimes it is worth taking a step back. To remind ourselves that our technology, as wonderful as it is, has created a dream in which we can so easily lose our lucidity.
It's important to remember that the world is far more vast than it may seem, that beauty, talent, ideas, and wisdom are infinitely more varied than that which appears on our screens, that things still feel more meaningful when we directly touch the lives of those who are closest to us, when our actions fill and embrace all of our senses.
While we should continue to use our technology to help break down barriers and to work together to improve our world, we mustn't let ourselves lose sight of our reality.
As comfortable as the delusion may be, to believe that as an individual we are the exception, that we are somehow chosen, it's simply common sense to accept that this is almost certainly not the case.
We cannot all be the "golden monkey", the tiny fraction of humanity that achieves the very best or is noticed by all. Yes, we can strive for perfection—but perhaps we should decide for ourselves what we consider to be perfect. We certainly shouldn't chase a rainbow of another's devising at the cost of our sanity or our self-respect.
Sometimes it's good to remember that whatever your flaws, whatever your problems, however far you are from the global social concept of "perfection", you are a unique entity in the vastness of time and space. You are a fleeting but absolutely one-of-a-kind being, the result of an ancient universe playing with chaos.
Be Kind to Yourself
So be kind to yourself, let your hair down, stop judging yourself so harshly.
In a world built from nature juggling with imperfections, you are imperfectly perfect. Just be yourself, love yourself and remember that you get to choose your own standards and to question all you are told. Unplug a little more often and connect with reality. Enjoy your meal without the urge to photograph it, have an adventure that nobody else knows about, revel in the freedom that privacy offers.
It needn't be some spiritual revelation. It's simply a case of being here and being you. Not caring what the global audience thinks, not needing to tweet and share. Unplugged, unjudged and free to play in the universe.
It's also good to remind oneself that in a cosmos as vast and old as ours, the entirety of all humanities achievements are as insignificant as that of an electron spinning around the methane atom of a gnat's fart.
You and your problems are much smaller than you may believe.
It rarely matters what the world thinks of you, and anyhow, the world probably isn't paying attention, it's far too busy worrying what everyone else thinks of it.
So just relax, set your own standards, question those who'd have you feel worthless, and strive to be the best you can here and now.
Rediscover the real value and meaning of the words 'share', 'like' and 'friends'.
In other words, the reality that matters exists beyond this little black frame and is waiting for you to embrace it.
About the Author:
Daniel Love is an internationally recognised consciousness and dream researcher, artist and bestselling author. He is the founder of The Lucid Guide.