Geeks Vs Loneliness: the benefit of the doubt

Just a few words about giving people, and yourself, the benefit of the doubt...

Ah, you made it. Splendid. This, chums, is Geeks Vs Loneliness, our weekly slot where we look at some of the things that make us, and others around us, feel a little isolated in the world. The ground rules are that not every article applies to everyone, we have no magic wands or miracle answers, and that the comments are safe, friendly and full of wonderful people.

With that in place, this week, I want to return to something we’ve touched on in many flavours over the course of this series. The idea of, in some way, measuring yourself against someone else.

But I want to zero in on something a bit more specific, if you’ll indulge me, and it’s this: most of us only get a snapshot of other people’s lives. And it’s human nature that we make judgements of sorts on what we get to see. Those judgements, whether we make them or are on the receiving end of them, can have consequences that we may never know about.

Let’s take an easy example: a movie star. You can’t get many more two-dimensional projections of a human being these days than that. We see movie stars as people with untold riches, who have luxurious parties, and live the kind of life that many of us would drool over the thought of.

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Yet what don’t we see? Plenty. We don’t see the moments where they might read something cruel on social media, and it reduces them to tears. We don’t see the insecurities. We don’t see the fear, the worries, the stuff that haunts many of us on a day to day basis. I read lots of times that we shouldn’t have support, empathy or sympathy for famous people, but I’m always puzzled by that. Sure, the riches mitigate things, but only so far. There are still human beings behind the image.

Going further, whether you have sympathy or not for the individual concerned, the response to troubles that a famous person is facing also has a consequence. When we read about someone famous battling depression, and they get hammered by a tabloid, how does that make everyone else battling depression feel? Yet those are the after-effects that are never seen, but can do very real damage behind closed doors. On a smaller, yet no less human scale, the person in the office who’s apparently always ill, and gets dismissed in a comment or two? That sells the individual concerned short, and has unseen ramifications for others in that environment who may be feeling vulnerable.

Most of us, arguably all of us, project an image of ourselves when we’re with other people. I do wonder how many people in life we really each of us know in a full three-dimensional way, and I’d wager that the list for each of us is quite short (not least because getting to know someone takes time, and we all have a finite amount of that). I’m not suggesting that everyone should know everything about a person, but just make the point that no matter how happy someone may appear on the outside, it’s hard to know for certain if they really are.

I’ll go further. You may be someone who puts up such a front, who gets their proverbial armour on to go and do battle with the day. As a result, fewer people really know the real you, and that too has an impact further down the line. That’s bound to catch up with you. Please try and open up to someone, no matter how difficult that may be to do.

If there’s a point to all of this, it’s just to sometimes stop and think twice. Someone looks really happy, but that doesn’t mean that they might not like to be asked how they are. Someone is acting like a dick, but they may have had the morning from hell, or be facing troubles behind closed doors we can’t even begin to imagine. That’s not your fault, and you deserve to be treated properly too, but if I had one suggestion, it’s this: take a breath. Just stop for a minute rather than lashing back. All too easy to write down, granted, and I’m no poster child for all of this. But human beings are funny things. No matter how happy or sad they may appear, we very rarely know their full story. Particularly in such divisive times, let’s take a step towards giving people a second chance, or the benefit of the doubt.

Thanks, as always, for reading my ramblings. Stay awesome.

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