A common theme I’ve noticed since becoming widowed six years ago is indifference. I notice it in the way people interact with myself and my children, I notice it in the way people interact with members of my family. Clients have talked about it during sessions. Indifference is everywhere!
Like many single people I rely on lots of small social interactions with other members of my communities. I have a neighbour community, a school community, a friend community a family community and a couple of online communities such as a place for widowed people to connect, an archery group and one for the metaverse I am involved with.
Now my friends are awesome. They know who they are because we have a mutual amount of contact and respect. Any real friend of mine I will have seen in person in the last three months give or take the ones who are geographically too far away and I have a couple of very long standing friends in that category. When you hit your mid-forties I think this is very common. I rarely see indifference in these relationships.
My family community has sadly grown smaller over the years but still remains a stable core of people I can reach out to and people who I can support. There are four members of the next generation, (my kids and my niece and nephew), who are the ones to take it forward and continue to keep an eye out for each other. I am so glad that they exist as they do. Two girls and two boys with both sets of similar ages. I rarely see indifference in family relationships.
The neighbour community I have consists of one or two of my real friends which I am eternally grateful for. There are also some good hearted people within the locale. But indifference is rife in this community. Some characters are downright problematic whilst others display indifference. This is utterly deflating at times when you need to feel a part of a community for physical safety and personal security not to mention belonging. Indifference is rife in the school community also mainly amongst some parents but often filtered down to students too. The online indifference usually takes a toxic turn due to the anonymous nature of the internet and often takes sides and gets ugly rather than remaining indifferent.
society creates its own monsters
Not everyone is destined to be friends but society creates its own monsters when it loses sight of the bigger picture and focuses solely on the individual and the inner circle reaching out from that individual. Obviously some characters prove themselves to be best avoided for reasons of safety. For instance there are people in the school communities with openly narcissistic tendencies. There can be sociopaths living above us. Sometimes we do need to discern who to converse with.
Indifference is more subtle. However it is still damaging to others. If we head out every day and hit a wall of indifference from everyone we meet our mental health will soon take a downturn. Sure, bystander effect can play a part. Would you be anything more than indifferent to someone you hardly know? They must have other people to form closer bonds with? Someone else will surely make the effort.
Social media has been an important enabler in the growing indifference problem. Second and third rate communications have become commonplace. Second rate can be defined as emails, phone calls, zoom calls and personal messages sent online any direct communication between individuals that is private but not done in person. Third rate is communication mainly through social media posts, videos and updates. Addressing no one in particular through virtual means. You could say that this blog is a third rate communication and that my teaching methods can be delivered second rate and also in the first person. Guess which I prefer?
First person communication can be direct, intense, powerful, meaningful, physical and completely terrifying for people who have grown used to second and third rate interactions. In a world that prioritises the virtual and actively punishes the physical it is important to think long and hard about how this affects our own lives and relationships.
Another angle to add is that taking an interest in people you don’t know can now seem creepy to society. People are not used to relative strangers showing them kindness or attention. We all do need to be aware of who is safe and who is a liability, (that’s when intuition really kicks in), this is a world where sadly a growing number of people do not have others’ best interests at heart. Perhaps indifference is rife due to our own inner self defence mechanisms. Perhaps those liabilities are so inclined because they have experienced indifference?
It is true to say that bad things can happen quickly to those who are dropped or shunned from society. And this starts with indifference. Those who are dropped can often turn on society. We see it everyday, all over the news of terrible things humans have done to other humans. And then sometimes of the terrible way society had treated the perpetrators before the crime. And then finally, a growing indifference to hearing of such news. A growing indifference to life itself.
Perhaps all it requires is each one of us choosing our words more carefully, taking an extra minute of time with people and remembering that each party in an interaction is expected to give and receive. Right now in the world there is too much take. Right now in the world tackling indifference is so important.