Interpersonal Challenges in the 21st Century

I often wonder about love, and relationships. What makes us attracted to someone? What influences that attraction? I can't speak for everyone, but I imagine a lot of the influence is based upon someone's up-bringing and life up until that point. We are, after-all, the sum of our life events in a way. Our experience and life shapes who we are, how we think, how we act, and how we view the people and world around us. Along the way, everyone we meet, and everything we do changes us along the path.

Someone on a dating site I am on, recently brought up the topic of how it is so difficult to find someone worth talking to these days. I, too, have had a similar issue. Often I find that many have become so very bigoted towards viewpoints other than their own, they they will completely disregard someone who doesn't follow their own thought patterns. This led to the topic of how people dated 100 years ago being brought up. An interesting question indeed. How did people date 100 or so years ago?

In an age before electronics, and the internet, people would of likely spent a lot more time outside. I mean sure, homes were a place to eat, store possessions, sleep, and relax on rainy days. But most of the time, people would be outside socializing in some manner. This was the norm for people, this is what was expected, and what people were brought up into. You had to go out, and work hard in order to find food, or get goods and services which you desired.

There was no ordering stuff on Amazon. Sure, mail order was just in its infancy back then, but usually you had to go to a 'department store' and order from a giant catalogue. Your item would arrive in a month or two, and you would have to go to the store to pick it up. Heck, even telephones were not very popular among common folk back then. In most cases you needed to go to the local post office to make a phone call to the next city over.

What did this mean for interpersonal relationships? Well, this generally meant that you ended up meeting and falling head over heels in love with someone in your own town. More likely someone in your same neighborhood. Or at least someone who went to the same stores, or same church as you. Back then church was a major location for social mixing. Everyone tended to live in the same 'world'. The views, current events, and political standpoints of your neighbors, would likely be the same as your own, as you all grew up and evolved in a similar environment, with similar influences.

So, this begs the question, why we can't just walk outside of our houses today, and find someone in a store, or at a local social mixing event, and completely hit it off with them? Well... Some people may be able to. But I imagine many, especially those who spend more time online, or engrossed in television, books or movies, may have difficulty with that. So why did it seem to work then, but not so well now? The answer, I fear, is because 'The Internet' happened.

The Internet is an amazingly powerful tool... Capable of exposing human beings to more knowledge than they are capable of even comprehending, or processing. Some even suggest that because of how we are over exposed to information coming from so many sources these days, that this is what is causing the alarming increase in depression and anxiety in the population. Many of us, who find ourselves online, find ourselves being influenced or at least culturally adjusted ever time we read news, or interact with something online that stirs emotions in us.

While you may be reading about the refugee crisis in Syria and Europe, causing you to grow sympathetic towards the refugees, your neighbor might be reading about how the refugees are raping woman in Europe, and are suspected in being terrorists. They therefore grow to hate the refugees. Keeping in mind both you and your neighbor have hypothetically lived in a suburbia neighborhood of North America for your entire lives, and hypothetically have never been to Syria, nor Europe... This simple twist of the same general news story, is enough to cause a problematic rift between people. A difference of morals, ethics, viewpoint, opinion, is enough to cause a relationship to fall apart. And why? Because of some differing news articles, likely both slanted in their own way, from sources half way around the world.

You've seen this happen before - I am sure - on your own Facebook feed. Family members beginning to go after each other for this or that. Whatever the days popular 'us vs them' topic is about.

This is why it is becoming more and more difficult to find someone to connect with locally. There are so many varying streams of information available through so many forms of media, that most people have taken to hiding in their own shells and only opening up to people they can really trust. And they will generally only trust those who have similar opinions as them. People withdraw, and close themselves off, because they expect disagreement now.

Online however, you can usually find someone to talk to. There are always forums, websites, chat rooms, videos, music, news sources, and blogs which you can find, which cater directly to your specific interests. You will also easily find someone who you can really connect with in these very specific locations. The longer we expose ourselves to these people, and specific influences, the more and more we become programmed away from our neutral (local) culture, the harder it becomes to relate, and connect with local people.

In conclusion, I suppose the only real answer is to always keep an open mind. Perhaps even being aware of these micro-cultures and subtle differences in peoples life experiences, may be key to forging ahead in the modern social sphere? The general theme for the younger generation these days is to form identities which are 'different'. They try to not be normal. Perhaps this is partly because of these influences? Is this where Social Justice Warriors fit in? What about the Self Esteem Movement? Are these helping or further hindering the ability for people to interact? I would tend to venture on the side of hurting, but I suppose time will tell. For now, keep an open mind, and try not to preach too much about your beliefs. If you preach respect, show it by first respecting others for their differing opinions.