The self-defeating loneliness of dogmatic self-acceptance

‘I don’t care what you think’ poses as a rejection of other people’s opinions and parades as the acceptance of self. But to adopt this concept of ‘self-acceptance in a vacuum’ you must pretend that you are not a human being — you must think of yourself as some alien creature that hasn’t been evolving and adapting for millions of years to live and work in hierarchical social groups. In short, you must think of yourself as a god: self-existent and self-sufficient.

In contrast, being part of a supportive, caring human community means being surrounded by people who genuinely do care about what you think.

Intimacy is not a prevalent feature in a room full of people whose common belief is that nobody in the room has an opinion that matters. Insisting that you don’t care what others think amounts to alienating and isolating yourself. Thus we can feel the aching loneliness behind the image when someone posts a selfie and declares, ’This is my image and identity, and I don’t care what people think of me.’

‘I don’t care what you think’ might be more accurately translated: ‘I am more concerned with someone else’s opinion than I am with your opinion.’ So in the end, it is possible that the I-don’t-care selfie is more about identifying the support of one’s in-group than claiming independence from the opinions of people in general. In other words, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks about me’ could equate to ‘Who cares, supports, and validates identities that look like this?’

Sometimes ‘I don’t care what you think’ might be a desperate and public attempt to figure out who, in fact, actually cares the most.

Hubs, Hives, and the Paradox of Social Innovation

Any place or program designed to foster connections between people can facilitate the formation of an exclusionary bubble. This is one of the curious paradoxes of intentional communities. A socially ‘sticky’ group runs the risk of becoming a victim of its success. When we humans meaningfully connect with one another, we tend to congeal. We tribalize and clubify. As a result, even our best-intentioned efforts to create places for human relationships can seamlessly morph into socially impenetrable fortresses of their own.

Sure, in theory, we love the idea of clique crushing, silo squishing, and bubble bursting places where we can find common cause with one another. But once we have identified our allies and compatriots, and settled down to work together, it is far easier to batten down the hatches than to practice an open door policy indefinitely. Out-groups are guaranteed, unavoidable byproducts of social cohesion.

Sociologically speaking, cliques are a normal part of human social behaviour. But the critical question for today’s waves of ‘social innovation’ communities to address is: who is specifically marginalized or excluded in the process of establishing collectives that purport to exist for the broader social good?

Humans have needs that can make only be met by membership in an ‘us’ — which inherently requires there to be a ‘them’ out there somewhere. The question is not, ‘Is anyone structurally marginalized or excluded by our community?’ but ‘Who is structurally marginalized and excluded from our community?’ The challenge for every would-be hub of social good and connectivity is to figure out how to become more like a public library and less like a golf club.