Listening? (Paranoia, instagram, and learning.)
“You have to listen very carefully and tell the truth if you are going to get a paranoid person to open up to you.”—Jordan Peterson
Paranoid people exist, and it’s not just Psycho Sam (Hunt for the Wilderpeople…see it!). People are paranoid about so many things these days—the news (fake?), the medical industry (killers?), Russians, instagram, and the list goes on.
In addition, technology itself has changed us. In the year 2000, at the dinner table, someone might ask you, “Hey, who sings the song on the radio?” You could answer, “I don’t know,” and just move on, because it simply wasn’t knowledge that you could immediately discover. Now people can whip out their phones and find out the answer.
I think that this access to information is incredible, but I also wonder if it has some downsides. It seems that I used to be more willing to be genuinely agnostic about a topic (I just didn’t have much knowledge, so I wouldn’t know one way or another), whereas now I sometimes feel a pressure to have some claimed expertise on any post that I see.
And that stops some genuine conversations. While I need to listen very carefully, I often find my mind racing to the next point, and I wonder how bad that hurts my own sincerity. It’s coupled online, such as on instagram, with the propensity to seek a somewhat manufactured affection. (To which I think there are two amusing corollaries. 1.) As an aggregate, the allure of landscape photos is inversely proportional to the number of times you appear in them. 2.) May your life be as glamorous as you pretend it is on instagram.)
All of this combines to cause people to lose the depth of connection that is available. People compare themselves to what another person seems to be rather than to who they were yesterday. It heightens people’s insecurities in this nasty, positive feedback loop.
I write these posts as notes to myself, and while I share them online, because I’ve been asked to in the past, they’re mostly just reminders for myself. This is a reminder to me that I’ve been trying to become a better listener, and thus friend, since at least 2017. I haven’t succeeded with flying colors, but high quality listening brings good results; it improves people and relationships. I think that it takes an awareness of how much people need to be listened to, plus time and practice, and I haven’t put in the time needed, at least not yet.
“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”—Isaiah 50:4
I wonder what I can learn from others if I actively listen? I wonder if listening itself might help erase some of the paranoia that’s out there in the world.
With love, always,