When I was in my teens, I noticed that some guys liked to see themselves as "outsiders" and to call themselves as such. I thought it was pretentious and had no intention of standing out as "different". Years went by while I was trying to assimilate into my social environment and find out what exactly I wanted to do with my life. Though sometimes fierce and not at all of a weak and submissive disposition, I was quite shy and had to work hard to overcome my fear of engaging in social activities. I wanted to overcome any weaknesses and so I was really pretty hard on myself. But I could never really turn into a popular person who moved around the social circles with ease and self-confidence. I was good at pretending and things did get better, but even to this day I have a fear of social demands when I haven't encountered them before. The main point, however, was that I could not change some basic characteristics about myself. I simply was "different". I suppose when I was younger I thought that I wasn't like everyone else because I came from such a dysfunctional family and had experiences of a kind that others didn't. When I started higher education and especially when I became open to spiritual thinking and symbolic painting, I had to admit that this difference was pretty fundamental.
Though I was trying to make friends I was never into any popularity games and I wasn't interested in making a statement about who I was. Why would I? Despite many questions about my life and destiny I felt I knew who I was on some deeper level. Being Finnish did probably allow me to be somewhat solitary without being looked upon as too strange, but on the other hand the social environment doesn't encourage fluent socialization so I found it very hard to make my way through the maze. Anyway, as I've gotten older and learned about other cultures, I've tried to open up a bit to some straightforward definitions of myself in public. Now I dare call myself "artist" and "dissident" without feeling funny about it. "Outsider" seems a bit young and somehow ostentatious, but I certainly am fairly alienated from the world that most people live in in the Western world.
In my radio talk I was trying to make a point of the fact that no matter how poor we are, we should have the right to be different from the norm. For me it means for instance that I can't be expected to eat like everyone else or dress like other people, and thus spend my money in the same way. When you're dependent on social aid you're expected to fit into categories that are easy to control and manage, at least potentially. When your priorities are different and you can't, for instance, go and stand in a food line (if there is any) because you truly cannot stomach the food they offer, people become defensive and figure that you can suit yourself if you rather starve. Another example was a lady who gave me links to free spyware and figured that if you're poor, you just "have" to put up with the ads that go with them. It is true that when you're poor, you usually have to do a lot of things yourself and when you don't, you have to put up with all sorts of rubbish that go along with special offers and the like. If possible, I avoid these at all costs! True enough, when I did start installing one free spyware I had to choose some stupid offers to go with it that would be filling my mail box in no time, and then had a hell of a job getting rid of the program that was bombarding me with urges to buy their products. I suspect it might even have carried some malware. I absolutely hate this sort of thing, it just creates more stress in my life. What's up with putting the knife on people's throats? There are really not many idealistic people who believe in true democracy and the freedom to pay or donate what you can in exchange for services in the world anymore and it depresses me like hell. Not that I have any answers as to how this could be rectified. Maybe if people did open up to greater altruism and find that it pays off somehow... dunno.
Well, the reporter made a big deal of the fact that I have a right to be a difficult customer at the social services instead; quite frankly I didn't really see the point of that at all but she thought it sounded cool. Oh well.
Another thing that has really disturbed me is the way the internet is "useful" for self-promotion and product-promotion. I find on spaces like Flickr, Blogcatalog and Twitter that people are very much into this idea of having as many people visit their blogs or sites as possible regardless whether these people are interested or not. "Visit mine and I'll visit yours" is a common line. I agree to some networking because obviously it's nice if people find you and enjoy what you have to offer. So reciprocicity is not all bad. It's part of being a social being. Sometimes you just have to "muster" a little bit of interest in other people. It actually often leads to surprises of a pleasant nature, as you learn new things that you didn't expect! I'm not really an introvert, rather a mixture of intro- and extrovert. To some extent, small talk is fine, though I obviously prefer that it leads to deeper issues. I mean, balance in all things, right? Interaction, not people hoarding, is what I'm trying to talk about here. And I don't want for people to visit me or follow me if they are not interested in anything other than their own traffic. Unfortunately the internet exposes and probably promotes incredibly conceited and narcissistic behaviour that really makes me sick. Either people don't care a crap about you and your ideas and only focus on their own, or they come and attack you or try and rescue you from your sordid self. Why I'm still socializing a little bit on the net is because at the moment it's my only source of social activity and every once in a while a nice person comes along who makes my day with something nice they say in sincere interaction with me. But most of the time I stay in one place only for a little while. For instance Twitter was serving some form of social purpose for a while but now I'm getting really tired of always trying to initiate some simple discussion and not getting much response back. This I wrote on a discussion thread on Blogcatalog today. People were bickering over the fact that you get grades depending on how active a Twitterist (?) you are.
"OMG, I certainly learned a lot about PEOPLE in this thread. You're all clear as water, I don't understand what you're bickering for except for some perverted (sorry!) pleasure in bickering and in being right and having the last word and all that. I'm pretty concerned about people's fascination with the internet so this was a learning lesson for me. When I first joined Twitter I thought it was the most idiotic thing; why would I want to announce that I'm going to take a crap to the whole world? Knowing that most people don't read it anyway. Then suddenly someone added me and before I knew it a whole community of followers of that particular person followed me. For a while I thought they actually wanted to get to know me. Silly me, haha. I decided ok, I need to socialize a bit because I'm really very isolated at the moment but badly burned from some forums where I got attacked. So I decided that Twitter was offering me a way of interacting breifly with people and getting some kind of social stimulation. I was trying very hard to read people's tweets without spending the whole day doing so, and I commented and asked questions to further a small discussion. I think I was basically being nice and quite normal in my interaction. But you know, after a few weeks I got fed up with being the one who was taking the initiative. Are my tweets that uninteresting and boring?? Or are people just so self-absorbed that all they care is to get their own life online for all to see (or pretend that people see it anyway?). Well, which could it be? I'm sorry (with the risk of sounding conceited!) but from what I've seen on the internet I vote for the second option. I think the internet is really a great promoter of self-importance and egotripping. Not saying everyone is that way and personally I'm still in all this to some degree because I have little else going for me socially speaking. But I can't say that my belief in humanity has improved (which is really a pity) or that I understand what ambitions are driving people to compete about how many followers they have or some grades that remind you of American highschool ideals (I'm European). Not saying that you cannot rejoice in those grades, not at all. Just that I don't personally understand the allure. I'm planning to delete anyone who follows me but never interacts with me. To me reading their tweets is REALLY a waste of my time."
Call me a bore and a different one at that, if you will. But I don't understand the fascination of competing with others or with oneself over popularity when it's not even clear that it's for real!
Artwork: "A Pile of Bricks", digital photography by author, all rights reserved 2008