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Plagued for a sense of meaning

hlehman's picture

In Paul's class yesterday we became engrossed in a conversation about writing in journals and why people blog online/ are now so open to expressing themselves and sharing with millions of strangers what they used to keep secret and so privately stored away.  After thinking about it more, I think that this conversation also connects to the second half of our discussion about The Plague

Paul brought up the idea that the plague is the random element of change that can be good or bad.  It opens the possibility of individuals playing a role in the meaning of events and I think that that meaning is something all humans desire.  Individuals desire meaning in different forms: meaning as personal praise like compliments on appearance, meaning in the shape of rewards for working hard like good grades after long hours of studying, meaning in knowing you helped someone else by volunteering in the community, meaning you feel after scoring a goal in a sports game, etc. 

This “meaning” no matter what form it comes in, gives one a sense of “right” or “good” and we work so hard to achieve it because it makes us feel better about ourselves and like we matter/ have a significant place in the world.  I think that blogging has become so popular because it can give one instant “meaning” in knowing that someone out there is reading and interested in what you are doing and the random events of your life.  Whether someone “likes” your status update on Facebook describing your excitement over what is being served for lunch, or you have 20 new followers on twitter because you tagged a new trend, this desire for meaning is our plague.  It can motivate us to work harder and do better for others or it can lead to our demise as we never find the ultimate “meaning” we so strive for and think we need to be happy. 



hannahgisele's picture

Searching for Acceptance

I totally agree. While we look for assurance and acceptance in every part of our life, Facebook has made it into a palpable experience in which people can count the number of people who supposedly "Like" their profile pictures and respond to their statuses. After reading this, I was reminded of a conversation I had recently with my 16-year-old sister when she made a snide comment about how her friend had little to no comments on her profile pictures on Facebook. She explained that if people don't immediately "Like" something she puts up, she takes it down. She struggled to acknowledge that rather than standing behind her own choices and preferences, she was ducking away from the quiet scrutiny of her peers before they had the chance to silently mock her by witholding their compliments and praise.
In an environment where acceptance can be counted and calculated, this search for "meaning" has become incredibly complicated. Just as hlehman titled her post above, we are "plagued for a sense of meaning." In a really broad sense, I feel like peer pressure, pop culture, and our own self-hating ways are our modern day plague. While Facebook may not last forever, a new, more innovative idea will emerge. And just like the rats, these fads fade, but return in new forms, ready to strike again.

bhealy's picture

Evolving of Devolving?

 This is really interesting to me. Just this week I noticed how many mundane details my friend posts on Facebook about her life, and how many of her "friends" comment on her statuses, pictures, etc. This idea of seeking meaning, or value, in social networking sites is becoming an epidemic of sorts, and I wonder whether this has always been there (probably) but just now has been transferred to the blogosphere. Have we as humans always had this desire/necessity to extract compliments, interest, etc. from our friends, but before it was in physical social settings? Or is the internet acting as a sort of catalyst in promoting/valuing this sort of openness and vulnerability? I have to say that I'll be pretty freaked out if this is the way that our social interactions are evolving (or devolving in my opinion)- putting every possible personal detail out in the open for others to judge, condemn, or "like."   

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