It feels that everything is converging. Sometimes I feel this is the sign of aging, too, that by being in 40s and started to understand just about every topic and have an opinion of them, every book I read and every talk I listen to start to convey the same message and contribute to my way of logic in a supportative way. This is both assuring, and alarming — I enjoy the sense that my view finds more agreement and seemingly more supports, but am deeply worried that I'm being cherry picking of evidence actively so to find comfort and enforce an already formed view. The the latter I am truly concerned because this is exactly the behavior and symptom I am advocating against. Yet, like everything in life, there seems to be built-in contradiction in everything — that your strength must also be your weakness, the most you think you believe and you want to promote turns to be the exact opposite of your preach! I don't know. I feel fundamentally I'm just not that smart, don't have much to offer, yet want to feel important, to justify your own being, being valuable, being smarter than many, being a good person, being a thinker ← really, just whatever image I want to project of myself, that's the deep down motives, yet I'm motivated by it exactly because I don't have it, and chances because I'm not capable of achieving it (thus don't have it yet), Therefore, the louder I'm speaking in that term, the louder I'm really announcing to the world that I am not that. How tragic.
This leads to the topic of what I want to discuss today, what I call acclerated anonymity. There is a common theme wherever I turn, that people in society has this anxiety to become known, recognized, agreed upon. Why!? In this Japanese movie, Tokyo Story, a common acknowledgment of price one pays by going to a big city like Tokyo is that you becomes insignificant, an ant. There are millions of you out there, doing the same thing, living the same life, thus yourself becomes a person without identity. This exact same feeling is being echoed in this generation in China, and perhaps in previous generations also when people were literally treated as trash and a part-of some great-good. So tools such as social media becomes immensely popular because we now have a channel to make yourself seen and heard, and even applauded. We are all on a stage putting on a show, and waiting for audience to show up, to admire us, to get some eyeballs, and to get, if not financial benefit, at least emotional benefit.
This same logic also intensifies the sensation of love, that out of this billion people or million people, s/he finds me, and likes me, and even adores me, what's the odds! what a fate!
Then, there is marketing, images of a life that feels ready-to-be-owned if only you put out your credit card, now, painless, effortless, reasonable, entitled, of course. The book of image explained well that this is only made possible with advent of mass production that what used to be available only for the elites and the rich, is now lowered in price that commoners can afford also, with a bit alternation in form, in exquisiteness, in quality, in feel, in originality, in its emotional meaning, and sometimes even in practical usage. But no matter, there you have it, even as a mockup, as a counterfeit, as a A货， as 山寨, it's better than none, than nothing (actually, doesn't this feel like the POC valud I hold so dear!? that the leap from 0 to 1 is qualitative, while 1-N is quantitative). Fascinating.
But then, this anxiety, this feeling of not-being-recognized, is accelerating. Going into a crowd makes you feel small; a growing population, or just being in a country of large population, highlights this instantly. So everybody is desperately holding on some identity, internally and externally, to prove his/her existence. Therefore, the LV, the vanity, the fashion, the wechat and your fans... but then, what is the alternative? what is the other extreme? seclusion!? that doesn't sound good either. And arguably, what about book authors? those really master pieces, and music, and essays, thoughts, philosophies... they didn't just write them for their self entertaining, did they!? They wanted their voice and opinion to be heard, to be adopted. So can I say they were also just as vain as us who wants to buy identity with $$? It does seem that we are on equal footing in this aspect. But theirs are, more complex? more advanced? more influential? I don't know.
So indeed, this feeling/desire of being somebody is universal and true. It must be part of a human mind. It's there, and we are born with it. There is nothing wrong about this anxiety. It's as natural as eating and shitting, just that it needs to be understood and handled. My reading of all these phenomenon is that this growing intensity of becoming known is exactly a mirror image of population expansion, and progress of large scale coorperation that answers growing complexity of problem human society is to solve (and doesn't this in turn create more complex problems? how self-propelling this is!) But then, what is the other extreme, that a tribe with a handful of residents, you know everyone by name and their family tree back to a few generations, even with blood ties all the way back!? Does it then alleviate or even remove such desire to known? and also, at least we will agree that being known is different from being agreed with. But in today's anonymity, these two are essentially the same motivation ← if not seeking an agreement, then why bother to be known!? Then why, why we are so eager to seek an agreeing voice? Is it because we just lack self-confidence? why now? and did we have this crisis in a tribe mode? What happens that your opinion was not agreed by tribe members? well, I guess then you will be kicked out, and die, so there is natural selection at work, haha. But then, today's society is practicing this same act, that especially in a (closed-minded) society, different opinion is not welcomed, is surpressed, is to be removed and its owner silienced and even eliminated ← but this should not be justified, should it!?
I don't know. The core has not changed, but the scale has changed. The growth of sheer number of population, the growing interconnection from tribe to State to now Globalization, the growing level of coordination in production especially in procurement and assembly (I still firmly believe the logistics of physical goods are soooo much more difficult than sending bits over a wire) → these are driving what we feel as the acceleration of anonymity.
Is it bad? No. It's annoying, but inevitable. It's what makes our life better than an ancient king, but also drives us nuts. Just like everything else, this is another case of built-in contradiction of existence → the strength is the weakness, the benefit is the cost. No escape, always true.
Here is a good news → there is hope! If you live in
income (XP) countries, you are out of luck because population
is growing; if you are in
high income (XD) countries,
your anxiety has a hope ~~
— by Feng Xia