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Why Young Lives are Losing Meaning and Purpose II: The Big Three and 11 Factors

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny | unsplash.com


“Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives…Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

~ Robert D. Putnam

Reading time: 20-25 mins

In the last post I looked at the decrease in meaning and purpose parallel to the increase in loneliness and isolation for today’s millennial and Z and generations.  Sociologists, economists and psychologists generally all agree that the key to developing and holding on to meaning, purpose and well-being is sufficient social interaction with a core group of friends and family that define one’s support. This is not the same as an extended family that usually arises from enforced socio-economic factors, but one that naturally evolves based around shared vision of support and nourishment because it is both practical and sustainable, offering real world benefits.

John F. Helliwell, a prominent expert in the economics of happiness believes the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives at the deepest levels. And the quality of those relationships is reflected in how well we have activated our response-ability and activities that offer a form of service to the community – whatever form that might be. This is what creates and deepens ties with others: constructive actions alongside key initiatory ideas. Helliwell draws his work from very large data sets called the World Values Survey which has accrued answers from people in over 150 countries about life satisfaction along with other socio-economic information. When Helliwell crunched the data he and other researchers found that there were six reliable and consistent factors which accounted for well-being:

  1. Social support
  2. generosity
  3. trust
  4. freedom
  5. income per capita
  6. healthy life expectancy [1]

Four from the list are connected with social interaction within a community. The other factors are relational and occur as a response to, or as a natural property of social support.  So a stratum of support covering all aspects of human aspiration is a really big deal, the lack of which will play a large part in the development of our social ills.

The Big Three

It seems to me, the development of meaning and purpose is rooted in three foundational products of social interaction which, if healthy, underpin a successful society, the constituents of which all operate symbiotically and grow parallel to each other. Thus, the creation of an individual emerges and is informed by:

  1. Parents
  2. Family
  3. Community

Obvious perhaps, but in crisis nonetheless. These three make up the strata in the soil of society/culture which is dependent on the level of access to community (should it even exist) a solid connection to nature and the quality of the environment upon which all three rest. [2]  Similarly, the healthy functioning of the three will have within them poor psycho-spiritual “nutrients”, or a rich, fertile ground that is self-sustaining and therefore community-sustaining. The presence of Helliwell’s six factors will be informed by the quality of the Big Three.

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Why Young Lives are Losing Meaning and Purpose I

By M.K. Styllinski

“Young adults are facing more stressful conditions than older generations, such as an increasingly competitive labor market, rising costs of housing, an increase in higher education costs, and issues of self-identity and confidence driven by more widespread use of social media.”

— Morag Henderson, sociologist at University College London


Reading time: (25-30 mins)

The crisis of meaning and purpose is something many of us are grappling with today. Girls and boys and young adults in particular are not succeeding in this battle. The path which defines our lives up to middle and retirement age is for the majority, mostly a constellation of conditioned responses encouraged by Official Culture. It replaces true meaning with a role that serves the technosphere as opposed to our true calling. Not always, but all too frequently. Then we are back to that existential crisis of youth where something deep inside knows that to find true creative balance takes a life time of struggle against forces that oppose any kind of spiritual liberation. Unless that is, we have the support to explore the transformation that comes knocking at the door of consciousness at various stages of our lives. To even have the awareness to heed that call requires a very different society than we have now.

Life is extremely complicated for young people these days, whether they are in Western, Asian, African or Middle Eastern societies. The predisposition of tyranny from our hierarchical institutions and social systems means that such a danger will always be there, even when there is momentum toward autopoietic * social innovations. The imbalance inherent within state authority and the unceasing drive of so many to live outside it’s influence is growing. This is a welcome reaction against the finite and unsustainable nature of cartel capitalism and rampant state-sponsored crimes against humanity. But we haven’t yet found that crucial tension, that balance that provides a psychological inoculation against psychopathic infiltration which so often turns civilisations into crucibles of centralised control.

The corruption of hierarchical power always weakens the structure to the point of catastrophic failure. And there are always young folks who act as literal and symbolic precursors to that descent, usually by embodying those ills and thereby showing us what long term or immediate future lies ahead. Each epoch manifests that see-saw between managed chaos and mass creativity which eventually bursts forth in destructive ways, sweeping away everything that went before.  Children and young adults are the tuning fork of future generations in this regard. Nonetheless, there is has been a very wide historical berth when it comes to defining how our youth interact with the world. The older generations have a distinct challenge to make sure our younger generations are correctly tuned to that which offers hope, spiritual strength and resilience to face what is certain to be an unpredictable and challenging future.

But let’s rewind for a moment…

Take Medieval England for example. During that time the majority of medieval people were young with far fewer older people with around thirty-five to forty percent under fifteen years old. There was a distinct and recognised period where the early formative years were largely employed for utilitarian ends. If there were not distinct roles then the family didn’t survive. As a result, the Church law and common law regarded children as equal to adults in many ways. Parenting was just as important and often imbued with strict moral and community-based values inspired by the Church and folklore. Though play was a vital part of growing up and of far greater importance than today, if a child was unprepared for the realities of what was a rather brutal world, it meant that the longevity of the family would be weakened as would the life of the child. Conscientiousness in one’s work had to be learned early on as it was quite often a life and death situation. [1]

The ubiquity of young folks meant there were major social differences in every community and sphere of activity. A feudal hierarchy of industry meant clearly defined roles with a narrow band of what could constitute freedom from our perspective today. It also meant that on average, there was seventeen years’ less experience of life to draw on and very few elders and betters that children had to go to for advice. This high proportion of young people experienced a violent, feudal world which saw hand-to-hand combat; brutality passing for entertainment; state sanctioned slavery and appalling daily health hazards – including periodic visitations of the plague – as the backdrop to their lives. Medieval boys for example, had what amounts to a man’s job from the age of seven and could have his wee hand chopped off if he decided to pinch some fruit from a market stall. If he graduated to a more audacious deed like stealing a hairpin or a Lord’s hat, he could be hanged by his doubtless scrawny neck. Boys could legally marry at aged fourteen and were considered ready to fight in the King’s army. Those born into the nobleman’s life or royalty had material comforts but a different level of responsibility. For example, Prince Edward, at just sixteen years old was in command of whole battalion.

Not a lot of leeway for a “safe space” in that milieu.

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The Hissy Fit Generation and The Loss of Free Speech VI: The Jekyll & Hyde of Social Media (2)

“It is no longer possible to stand up for all speech.”

Sinead McSweeney, Twitter’s vice president of public policy and communications for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

***

“The First Amendment doesn’t protect a user’s speech on a private company’s site. On the contrary, the First Amendment protects Facebook’s right to say what can appear on its platform.”

— Jack Smith, Business Insider


Whether we have our faces glued to the smartphone in the street or feverishly checking our Twitter and Facebook accounts on our lap top at work, face-to-face interaction is fast being replaced by social media, which has society built around it. These networks offer steadily diminishing returns on social investment since a large proportion is rooted in self-promotion, self-admiration and the endless noise of opinions. The latter is drawn from a long since compromised mainstream media that has the audacity to charge alternative media with propagating “fake news,” a meme expressly created by neo-Cold War strategists within the Deep State to counter the non-existent presence of Russian interference in US elections. Opinions therefore are useful for creating emotional capital  and the noise of distraction for the rest of us, so that intel agencies can continue to extract all the data they want.

Meantime, young adults are having to cope with an economic time-bomb; the legacy of poor parenting and a lack of play; minimal contact with nature and poor social skills. On top of a pervasive technology that is re-wiring the brain from easily accessible hardcore porn to virtual and highly superficial forms of exchange which, by their very nature, “optimise” and “compress” information down to soundbites. The pace of information exchange and the ratio of quantity over quality means that the highs and consequent lows are making addicts and infants out of many millennials and Generation Zer’s. The neuro-hacking of culture over the last few decades has given us a crisis in the young, now exacerbated by social media and smartphone technology. Yet, such technology is here to stay. So, can we turn it around and apply its true potential?

First, we must dig deep in order to find out what’s truly going on.

***

Facebook, more popular than Google, is now herding over 2 billion users and growing faster than any year since 2012. According to Tech Crunch the platform hasn’t lost its popularity with”66 percent of Facebook’s monthly users return each day now compared to 55 percent when it hit 1 billion.”  The social networking giant has an enormous influence on young minds and society as a whole in ways we are only just beginning to fathom.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his new mission statement to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” This has to get the prize for the most disingenuous statement since George W. Bush claimed he was bringing freedom to Iraq. The world is getting closer together all right but we ‘ain’t holding hands. Rather, we are giving over our freedom and the very kernel of our minds to a new form of corporatism and surveillance. Analysts can barely keep up with how Facebook and other social media platforms are literally redesigning our lives and psychology.

As smartphone usage attests, there are voluminous studies indicating how social media (Facebook) is bad for your health. A family member often tells me: “Time just seems to disappear when I’m checking Facebook…It’s like I’m under a spell!” Two hours almost seem like two minutes. Yet, they frequently come away feeling exhausted rather than inspired. Why? University of Kent psychologists wrote in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that compared to general internet use Facebook and its related stimuli can lead us to underestimate time. Although general internet use has the same effect, Facebook was the  worst offender for such time distortion. The distortion of time locks us into a greater exposure to social media and internet surfing than we realise, suggesting that our mind is in a specific state of addictive suggestibility.[1] They found that it was Facebook-related images that changed how we pay attention to this visual stimuli, and likely plays a significant part in the rise of internet addiction as a whole.

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