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It is going to be okay
healing the collective unconscious through art, compassion, & the reclamation of tech
Today is heavy. I know. I get it.
Having grown up in an age like this, it’s hard not to be perpetually afraid. But when you’re perpetually afraid of the news, it has real repercussions because it colors the way that you see the world.
(I’m sorry if this is poorly organized but I want to lay these thoughts out. And ever since Manet commented that As I Lay Dying was a first draft, I feel validated in my hatred of rewriting)
I’ve fallen in love with tech lately, thanks to Hofstadter’s The Minds I. And not in the digitally performative “ever since I was little I’ve known that I wanted to be on the computer” way. Not in the way that’s ironic enough without trying to be ironic.
I’m always going to be earnest about the things that I really care about. And just yesterday, I was on the phone with my brother discussing life updates and such and was reflecting on having had a social-media-laden childhood. But I’m really grateful that I never lost my love of reading at the same time. And I think that that’s why I think about things like I’m constantly excavating them, but I still have the same generational fears and anxieties. I was still a 12-year-old with depression on tumblr. But I was looking at Flaubert quotes just as often as I was looking at thinspo.
But, as I think I’ve written here before, TECH IS MORALLY NEUTRAL. And sometimes it’s almost akin to art. All you have to do is watch a video of Steve Jobs speaking or ask a true tech geek about the Woz to see the beauty and artistry in it.
And lately, I’ve also been getting deeeeeeep into Carl Jung thanks to the Creative Codex podcast (it’s brilliant, thank you MJ). The Hofstadter book ultimately asks if tech will be sentient. But it also asks the more existential question of whether or not we are computers. And one of the passages reflecting on the Turing test describes how our reality, our “knowledge” is based on models, much like we’ve built computers to “know things.” Their code. We have one too. You put your hand on the stove. It is hot. You don’t do it again. And Jung, in The Red Book, his deep exploration of the human subconscious discusses how inside of us, in each of our souls is a child. My soul is a child. And we want things that feel good and we’re afraid of things that don’t.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about rejection and isolation. The Psychology of your 20s podcast discusses rejection through an evolutionary psych lens. To be rejected is to be left out to be cold. To starve. Being alone can be wonderful, but only when it is a choice. I choose to be alone when I want to write.
So how did we get here. To this point where each day the news is gut-wrenching to read. Here, is where I remind you that I’m a 23-year-old woman with an overactive mind, so my thoughts are not the law. But they are thoughts.
Reviving Ophelia discusses the deterioration of communities with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle. Neighbors grew scared of neighbors. Friends of friends. We know this already. But I’m more interested in what happened subconsciously with the rise of individualism alongside advances in tech. Because instead of going into the world and smiling at people and hearing them laugh and listening to them speak, we experienced simulations of it. We built models off of simulated experiences and I think this is a large part of what’s led to a mental health crisis.
And the same way your child of a soul wants pleasure and wants to stay away from pain, we also want these things at the most extreme points. We want the most pleasure or the least pain, but in order to stay away from the pain, we must know what the absolute worst is, leading to this weird type of simulated gluttonous/masochistic machine that is reflected in our algorithms. Professor Ruha Benjamin explores how racial biases seep into AI. But what about the parts of ourselves that we’re not even aware of? The ones in our subconscious? The ones in our child of a soul?
culture is defined in these two ways:
the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively
the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group
But we’ve hit this weird catch-22 where we’re letting the internet define culture. But it’s not even tech. It’s the gluttonous/masochistic algorithmic machine that we’ve made. We’re letting it define culture. But what is it?
I feel like it’s our child of a soul, pushed into a corner with no instructions. No guidance. Left all alone. Performing for a simulation that it doesn’t even know it’s created. But who are we performing for?
And I know that, based on the models, on this simulation we’ve created, it feels so every-person-for-themselves, it feels like you can’t trust anyone, like you must always look over your shoulder. But I’ve also been thinking a lot about Jung’s “Collective Unconscious.” And I really think that the first step toward something like a better world is to make sure to be in it. With others.
Which is tremendously scary, I know, I get it. But we can’t do it unless we believe. I feel like there’s some quantum theory stuff here. We can reverse this communal deterioration. Your neighbor is not your enemy. Borrow some milk. I did a couple weeks ago, it was lovely. And you are worthy of many friends. Some of the best friends I’ve made in the past few months were people I simply chose to greet or vice versa. You will have them — neighbors and friends. You don’t have to be alone — We don’t have to be alone. We are choosing to, currently, in the weirdest, cyclical way. By going into our own little corners of the algorithm, of a world of our own creation.
Come out of the corner. Go into the world. Talk to someone. Smile at them, laugh with them. The simulation is much scarier, I promise.
And the first step, one I’ve taken again and again after something like a relapse is giving yourself space from devices. Allocating screen time (social media time SPECIFICALLY) to very specific, limited times of the day. Your thoughts should originate from you and the stimuli around you. Not our algorithm. And the first step to healing a collective consciousness, or at the very least yours, is giving it room to breathe.
going to publish a parallel pod episode on some of the same topics sunday