Let’s start this off with a fact: In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin uses the word love ninety-five times. He uses the iconic phrase survival of the fittest just twice.
Take a moment and think about what you just read. And I mean really think about it. Let it settle in your mind. In a book that is widely recognised as being at the crux of the ideological divide between science and religion because of the writer’s notion that the development of the soul is a normal process of evolution, and not the the works of a divine being, he mentions the idea of love ninety-five times and natural selection as we perceive it only twice…
Twice. It’s mind boggling to learn that the concept that society believes to be the defining declaration of a body of work that sent a fucking firestorm through literature, science, and religion alike, is just a miniscule part of a larger knowledge of human evolution. Yet from a young age the idea of survival is bred into us; we work as individuals and in teams to win prizes or recognition. We align ourselves with strength and dispel those that we consider to be weak. And perhaps worst of all, we allow society to cultivate a belief that we are in constant competition with our fellow man and woman in our quest to be remembered and revered.
…Let’s rewind a little and start over. When I first started planning out this post it wasn’t supposed to sound like this. It was more of an expletive fuelled stab at societal flaws that capitalize on our insecurities and feed our fears. So, let’s add a little context and flesh this out some more…
That funny looking word at the top of the page has a very poignant meaning. Athazagoraphobia is the fear of forgetting; of being forgotten, replaced, or being ignored. The idea probably doesn’t seem too foreign to most readers. Unfortunately, thanks to civilization’s rather skewed modern day philosophies it is an illness that is threatening to consume the societal collectives and subcultures that define us. Someone recently wrote to me and asked what it felt like to be a social influencer. The question came from a brilliant young writer who has a great career ahead of him, and was delivered with the utmost sincerity. Yet while I should have been thrilled to be bestowed with such a title, it actually left me feeling cheap.
When I envision a social influencer I find myself conjuring up images of vanity and social media posts aimed at generating revenue for businesses through spamming newsfeeds with sponsored posts. Here’s me influencing in my new sweatpants. Here I am taking a photo of coffee, or food, or a whatever else. The product isn’t important. But the imbalance in our logic is. We equate the idea of influence with marketing and misconstrue the lines between being educated and informed, with merely being sold a product. An influencer should be someone who is stimulating creativity, or inspiring social change; not hindering individualism and authenticity by capitalising on society’s ever growing desire to be irreplaceable and unforgettable through slick marketing gimmicks.
There is a very big difference between a brand ambassador and a social influencer; or at least there should be. Because marketing and purpose driven content has its place, but our cultural inability to distinguish between the two can have damaging repercussions to our mental and societal health. The idea that we should be persuaded to not only consume, but to compete in doing so, can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration and depression. We shouldn’t be forced to feel as though we are in competition to out consume and out replicate the influencers that we aspire to. The result of this logic is that we become miserable drones blinded by own desire to maximise self interest that we can no longer see the beauty and value of the people that we see as our rivals.
Alright. Let’s get back to Darwin and the battle between love and survival.
I dream of the day where I can refer to myself as a social influencer. I really do. As a writer there a few thrills more rewarding than knowing that the workings that you have produced have the power to inspire the reader. But I want don’t want to encourage my readers to compete or consume. I want to inspire them to be great; not in the bullshit sense of greatness that is pushed upon us on a daily basis either. I don’t want people to believe that my vision of greatness has anything to do with money, or power or status. All that crap is just superficial nonsense that is keeping you distracted and diverting attention away from what is really important.
My vision of greatness is more akin to happiness. It is a life filled with love and contentedness. It is having a heart free from angst and anxiety, an open mind, and an understanding that we are all connected. We aren’t in competition with one another; we never have been. It’s just a bullshit lie that we have been spoon fed for so long now that we are actually beginning to believe it . We don’t need to subscribe to the philosophy of survival of the fittest. We need to practise love and human compassion instead. By doing so, we will find a happiness that will render any fear of being forgotten and replaced obsolete.
I spent years suffering from a form of athazagoraphobia; I have always been riddled by anxiety and depression. One of my greatest fears is that when I die, I will simply cease to exist and will eventually be forgotten. This phobia is one of the many reasons that I write. I want to be happy. I want to love, and to be loved. Yet for so long I thought that happiness would come through being the best. Just like so many others I misconstrued the idea of greatness with being better than the people that I believed myself to be in competition with. I spent years convinced that if I pushed myself to become the best writer in existence, then people would have to love and remember me. But I was wrong.
It wasn’t until just recently when I stumbled upon the fact that opened this post that I realised that the only person I need to be great in comparison to is the person that I was yesterday. If I love, I will be loved. And if I focus on inspiring my fellow man rather than competing against them, I will touch them and I will be remembered not as the greatest writer that ever lived; but as the greatest version of me that I could have ever been. If following this logic makes me a social influencer in some respect; then I will take pride in the title bestowed upon me.