The Milieu

It’s the makings of a classic story about growing up. A group of young people get together. They’re determined to do something downright stupid, something bound to end badly. One of them, though, disagrees.

What a great setup! This could be a major motion picture!

The young person who disagrees is at odds with his peers. At first, he needs to test the waters, to see how his friends will react if he detracts.

They’re all great friends. They’ve been through many experiences together, good times and hard times. It’s a kinship. But a kinship is constantly tested like this. People don’t fall into line with friends and associates who agree with them in a neat and organized way. We fall more like leaves onto the grass. We look to the left, to the right, and that’s what have. We talk with the leaves close to us. They seem to be friendly … we become friends! There’s no organization to our social circles. It’s whoever attends that same yoga class as us; whoever is this new guy hired to go out on truck rolls with me in the field …

We live in a milieu.

We make the best of it.

We can’t deny this.

But for some reason, some people are trying to deny it. Empowered by little computers they call “phones”, some minority of us is emboldened to try and lead the group, though in the past they have had no voice.

They thrash out at us from their hiding places behind these phones, overdoing it in their enthusiasm. In the network, their pleas for justice and fairness wash upon everyone, friends, foes, perfect strangers. They feel no longer restricted, and use the forum generously, announcing every thought that comes to mind.

And the funny thing is, even though it’s a milieu, even though we’re all still in our groups of associates and friends, as individuals we always assume these people are a little annoying, and certainly are not “us!”

Maybe we need to reconsider the meaning of “us!”

It could be you. It could be me. Or the other guy. It could be anyone! Only a couple years-ago, things were much different. There’s a current situation that didn’t exist before we started communicating through the phones. In the past, we would have looked around for a second and figured it out! But now we labor over any social issue as if the biggest mystery in the universe presented for the very first time, with geniuses sprouting from every crevasse.

Is it the same guy who felt-out detracting from his friends, the minority, who’s today the guy denying the reality of his place in the group; his position in the family; his size, strength, popularity and power?

He went from a good friend to “probably the boss?” In the past, that would have required a good argument! Today, just a good computer.

It used to be that guy would feel compelled to socially learn. He would bite his tongue before sounding like a crazy person “in person.”

He would learn from the situation and adjust his personal behavior!

The odds would be fair, because he can see what he’s dealing with. Sam, Joe and Eddie. Those guys; the other guys in the group. If you’re outnumbered, that’s important. Today sometimes you can’t see the other people, can’t count them, and it feels like human nature to give them too much credit, as if you’ve started a new worldwide movement every time you come up with a new thought. And more significantly, when our own voices are magically more powerful (or so it feels), we stop hearing other people.

We are not learning because we’ve bypassed an important social construct. Not only do we use phones to make our group’s size mostly invisible to us, but the phones are tilted and opinionated, controlled by a larger group.

Yelling into a phone, it’s easy to overdo it. Just saying anything at all might be overdoing it. You may be of a very small minority in this world of 8-billion people, thinking you’re making a big difference, finally. But that phone has distorted your thinking, making you hope for a big audience. Two Americans, a German and someone from the West Indies turns into a new Facebook group about flat earth theory, and you’ve found your purpose.

We lose perspective, and we lose the whole world.
We imagine we may, or may not, have friends.
We have support, when we’re lucky our friend from Glasgow’s online.
We’re brought to tears by dramatic, stolen memes shown us by strangers.

And this spreads to the world stage. We applaud anyone who hates “Putin,” based on what we see and hear. But we still live in a milieu. When we see our friends face-to-face only scarcely, we’ve had no time to test the waters. We can’t do it online; it’s impossible. Remember how it feels as a young person … having a differing opinion and offering it up to see how everyone reacts? It’s what we do. It’s why we make campfires and barbecues; why we watch television, enjoy our jobs, raise families and survive. Understanding how the other carrots in the garden are doing is essential and fundamental to our ability to know how we are doing.

Your group is still there. When you touch base with them, you’ll end up feeling a small sense of relief that they ARE still there, and a bit of freedom for the wonder of a real conversation. Something will happen that’s the missing piece; the piece taken away by a non-conventional way of communicating.

The odd thing is, you’ll appreciate the most not your friends; those who agree with you, but the rest of the group – the ones who don’t agree with you but are still good-looking carrots with a nice bit of green on their heads.

What a wonderful world it would be if we could stand in a crowd and not worry about what people think of us. What if we could constantly test and see how people react, and establish a personality that feels great for us based on what we learn from all the other people? What if none of it felt intimidating?

Thanks for reading! Now it’s time to put the phone down, because the big party is still happening. The way we learn and develop, personally, from face-to-face communication won’t be changing in the next 20-years and can’t be pried away from us by a few crooked veggies who somehow mistakenly made it to the blue ribbon table. Make your world smaller, and you’ll suddenly feel as if you have everything in the world you ever needed.


Mark Urso

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