Searching for My New Community
Leaving a tribe is painful.
No, I'm not speaking in hand-wavy metaphors. Literally, loneliness is a biological feedback loop to urge us back into a tribe. The reason being is that evolutionary wise, reliance on a tribe was a survival mechanism that we still benefit from this day. Only the most extreme introverts (and this is exceedingly rare) can truly live the lifestyle of a hermit apart from a family, a community, a tribe, or even strangers.
I know this pain. I've left or lost my tribe multiple times.
When I left high school, I completely abandoned most of my family. It wasn't a proud moment, but I had just learned I was born a bastard child, and I didn't want to bring shame upon the dad that raised me.
When I was finishing undergrad, most of my community (fraternity, varsity teams, classmates) moved on while I went to grad school.
As I finished grad school, I became disenfranchised. In my opinion, science had been coerced, politicized, and weaponized. Rather than a search for the truth, I found it to be a wielded weapon of moral superiority more powerful than any religious leader could ever dream. So I parted ways with friends and colleagues that couldn't see eye to eye.
And so on and so on a few more times, which brings me to today.
Through a combination of many factors, I find myself disconnecting from many people around me. The 2016 election has resulted in an amplification of division between the two parties. Those in the center, as Bridget Phetasy has noted, have become the politically homeless. Now they have become silent, lest they incur the wrath of digital flash mobs that destroy their lives or careers in an instant.
Twitter, one of my favorite platforms for finding people of like mind across the globe, is both a blessing and a curse. I've made a ton of friends who have challenged my thinking and helped me gain a new perspective on the world. At the same time, it's a place where nuance goes to die, where conversations have become increasingly black and white shouting matches with few people willing to rumble in the middle.
We live in an era where Brene Brown and other leaders have popularized the concept of vulnerability. We know that this is the antidote to shame, which allows us to become the highest expression of ourselves both personally and professionally. Vulnerability is a way we can open up and connect honestly with other human beings and become true leaders.
Yet, as we learn the benefits of this open dialogue, it's simultaneously being crushed in public forums. The stakes are too high to abide by the wise words of Stephen Covey: "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood." There is no desire to understand anymore. The goal now is to overtalk, coerce, and force people to a predetermined outcome.
I will have nothing of this dialogue. It's exhausting at best and deadly at worst. We are suffocating people into self-censorship and silence. The technology that was supposed to connect has, but with unintended consequences that only a few could have imagined 10 to 20 years ago.
To that end, I am on the search for a new tribe. A tribe that can actually agree to disagree in a healthy, non-passive aggressive way. I see individuals that can get into a spirited debate and not get offended if they get to an impasse and yet still hang out on the weekends and be friends.
While it's never easy to let some relationships drift apart to become strangers again, I look forward to the wonderful people I'll encounter on this next phase of my journey.
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.