The way our society is structured, it places too much values on materialistic things, rather than deep, intimate relationships. And I’ve had many experiences, where I find this to ring true. First, in English class, we read books like The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men, which were both about how the American Dream is unachievable. Characters in both stories were so obsessed with materialistic things, and wealth, that they sacrificed their relationship and well-being of themselves and others to attain that, and let’s just say, things did not end well for these characters. I also took AP Psychology last year, and I learned a lot about how important the human need is to feel belonged, and the importance of touch/comfort of a mother. In AP Psych, we watched a documentary on Harlow’s monkey experiment, with live footage of the experiment, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see how scared the baby monkeys were, and how tight they clung onto their cloth mothers.
I once saw a speech on “solitary confinement”, and one things that stuck with me is that it’s one of the cruelest punishment there is. Humans are social creatures, so locking them in a small confined area with no human contact is brutal and the damage it does to their mental/physical health is beyond horrible. And the ironic things is, the way that our society works, many of us choose to confide and isolate ourselves. People would rather spend time watching TV in their rooms than hanging out with their friends and families. Also, I’ve seen/read a bit on psychological disorders and suicide- I’ve read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (which is about a boy who wants to commit a school shooting and kill the guy who bullied him, then commit suicide) and Thirteen Reasons Why (which is about a girl who tells the story behind why she commits suicide in the form of cassette tapes for people to listen after she has died) to name a few. Through these stories, it’s crystal clear how important connecting to people and building strong relationships are. Suicide is an extreme example, but the way that society lets us isolate ourselves, and valuing ourselves more than others (with commercials saying things like “you deserve it”), our society has lost its ability to connect with people and work towards a greater good, and that’s so dangerous.
It’s important to love yourself, but let’s not forget to love other people in the process too. Friendships and relationship are meaningful when the two people are willing to put each other first. The income gap makes it so easy to fuel power hungry people and make the top climb higher, while the bottom stays at the bottom. We learned this in APUSH, where since African Americans have the slavery ancestry, they weren’t allowed to read, and so many of their descendants today still don’t. That’s so unfair, and goes completely against the mentality of working as a group, when we’re leaving so many people in need of help behind.
I remember reading Dear America: The Fences Between Us and The Invisible Thread (which are both about the Japanese internment camps during WWII), and both girls talked about how even though their conditions were awful, they became oh-so-close with the other people there, and grew stronger because of the relationships and the warmth it brought out in people. Another instance is, when during 9/11, when passengers of flight 93 came together to take down the terrorists on their plane, and in turn saved so many lives. The power of a community and feeling of belonging is absolutely empowering, and something that is rare in our society. Relating back to high school, it’s why students have cliques and are sometimes exclusive because they want to feel like they belong and that they have power. This also reminds me of an article I read on the KKK, where it’s super ironic that the most people joined KKK because they wanted to be part of a group- to feel like they belonged, yet they made the Africans Americans of that time feel the opposite. People desperately need to feel like they are accepted and belonged to a group, and when our society doesn’t give them that, it leads to nasty outcomes of high suicide rates and mental illness that drives people to harm others, or do crazy things. While I understand that some mental illnesses are genetic, some events can trigger mental illnesses, like PTSD. Those examples are extreme, but it’s not healthy to feel so isolated, and to not have connections or someone to talk to. In an article I read, one in ten people feel that they don’t have a close friend, and 43% say that they don’t have friends at school or work.
I think the biggest part of trying to bring change is to bring awareness first. If we want to change our society, it has to start with people being aware that this is a problem. Even though our little, white suburban is about as far from war as it can get, the effect of affluence and technology is oh-so prevalent. It’s so disheartening to walk into a restaurant and see the whole family on their phones instead of talking to each other. With busy activities, and easy access to entertainment, kids no longer spend quality time with their families, or choose to eat dinner in front of the TV. Also, when I babysit for my neighbors I always try to get them playing outside, but it absolutely shocks me when they keep asking to go back home or reach for their iPads.
The ironic thing is the internet seems to keep us connected with social media, but it’s actually disconnecting us from reality. For example, with photoshop and filters, we can make ourselves and our lives online as far from the truth as we would like it to be. I remember reading a memoir about a famous Minnesota YouTuber, A Work In Progress, who mentions this game he plays with his friends called “all phones in the center of the table”, and the first person who reaches for their phone has to pay for dinner. I think that’s so clever and awesome, and I would love to play that game. There are definitely people out there worth ignoring your phone for.
Psychologist have named this phone addiction “nomophobia”, since a study in 2014 in Britian found that 53% of people have trembling anxiety if they lose their phone, or if they don’t have network coverage. Another thing I’ve noticed in our little, affluent suburban, completely attests to the fact that we value our personal gains above the group effort. For example, when our school does fundraisers or donations (like book drives, food drives, Pennies for Patients, etc), most people don’t even bother to bring in anything, even though they have more than enough money to spare. They would rather spend their money on another article of clothing, even though they already have a whole closet full that they barely even wear, when people who are dying of cancer, or starving in Africa need the money more! The low turnout rate, is so mind blowing, when our community has more than enough money to spare. I understand why kids who are tight on money can’t contribute, but kids who flaunt around in designer jeans, need to step it up. That’s the problem with our society- people with a high level of comfort and affluence can’t relate to the people who are in need to help, and therefore don’t extend a hand out to help. If we don’t start acting like a group, and making sacrifices for each other (even if it’s as little as giving some personal money to donate), we will never be able to truly fix this problem.
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