Editorial time again. As it is Summer and I’m on holiday, perhaps I should come up with something seasonably happy and light – full of goodwill and happiness. After all, I am happy at present, that happiness deriving primarily from the massive reduction in meaningless social interactions I have to engage in whilst on holiday. It’s great, apart from exchanging the requisite pleasantries with shop assistants, I can spend entire days not speaking to anybody. Not that people, complete strangers at that, don’t try to engage in conversation with me. Only today, for instance, I was enjoying a lengthy walk in one of our National Parks, taking in the beautiful scenery and soaking up the sun, when some random walking in the opposite direction took it upon themselves to try and say ‘Hello’ to me. And it isn’t the first time – all this week at various beauty spots I’ve had to endure the same sorts of intrusions into my privacy. What’s that all about, eh? Don’t these people know the rules? A gruff nod of acknowledgement is the absolute maximum of social interaction between strangers when outdoors.
But that’s the trouble these days – too many people seem hell-bent on forcing you into interacting with them. Whether you want to or not. Because, of course, there must be something wrong with you if all you want is to be bloody well left alone. Believe me, after a year of having to deal with idiots at work, I crave my annual late Summer break and the solitude it brings. For me, solitude equals peace. Only when I’m not being forced to deal with the mass of idiocy that consists the human race these days, am I truly at peace. The fact is that I’ve never liked people much and being forced to deal with them en masse, as I have been for too many years to remember at work, has led me to the conclusion that I have no time for them at all. Sure, there are one or two individuals I can tolerate, but taken as a group, I despise people. That’s what has made the minor car accident which kicked off my holidays so bloody traumatic: the number of people I’ve been forced to waste time dealing with in order to simply get my car repaired. I’ve had them all phoning me: insurers, claims adjustors, solicitors, body shops, car rental firms – it seems an endless parade. Really – just fix my car, the damage is minor, the other party has admitted liability. How difficult can it be?
To get back to the original point, the reason, I’m sure, that these people try and force you into some kind of unwelcome social intercourse is that they believe it establishes a power dynamic, in their favour, between you. By making this opening gambit of an unsolicited greeting, they are clearly putting the onus on you to respond: they’re being ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ (even though you didn’t ask them to be) and a failure to reciprocate will make you appear ‘rude’ and ‘anti-social’. What they don’t bank on is the fact that some us are anti-social and don’t care if complete strangers think that we are ‘rude’. Not that this sort of behaviour is confined to complete strangers in National Parks – you get it in the office, too, where colleagues try and force you into these sorts of interactions. Again, I’ve got to the stage where I realise it is pointless trying to have a conversation about anything which interests me in the office, so I just don’t bother: all I want to do is go into the office, do what I have to do, get back on the road, do my job and go home where I can do something interesting. The pub is getting just as bad – increasingly full of morons intent on pouring out their ignorance on any given subject as loudly as possible and expecting you to listen. I don’t. I just ignore them, instead.
I know I’m painting a grim picture here of myself as a curmudgeonly misanthrope, but the fact is that, the older I get, the more I prefer my own company. Experience has taught me that too much trivial social interaction inevitably ends in tears. And it seems that the rest of the world is finally coming around to my point of view. Just witness the current backlash against social networking sites like Twitter because of alleged bullying. Like every other misanthrope who hates direct human contact, I had high hopes for the web in the early days, as a medium for allowing us to interact with like-minded souls without having to actually meet them. Arms-length socialising – ideal, we thought. But what happened? That’s right – all those bastards from the real world we were trying to avoid gate crashed the web and any hopes we might have had of establishing a civilised community based around reasoned discourse between intelligent individuals, were swept away. Instead, ‘social media’ became a bit like the pub on a bad night: full of idiots shouting at the tops of their voices, not to communicate ideas, but just to see if they can dominate the discourse and drown everyone else out.
Which is why I’m always perplexed by the notion, championed by the ‘old media’ that the kind of bile and abuse that abounds on social media is something new, enabled solely by the existence of the internet. The reality is that this behaviour has been imported to the web by the kind of idiots who read tabloid newspapers (which, incidentally, encourage this kind of ‘laddish’ culture with its oafish behaviour, reverence of ignorance and contempt for opinions or cultures which differ from the supposed ‘norm’). The only difference is that what was once just an unpleasant experience in the lounge bar of your local, is now a 24/7 global phenomena. Of course, if so many people didn’t have such a penchant for forcing meaningless social interactions on others, then we wouldn’t have this problem. We’d all respect each other’s space. Indeed, we’d hopefully just respect each other. Well, I think I’ve ranted enough. I’m going back to my holiday now. So, ‘til the next time: keep it sleazy!