The rise of social media has given the world countless beautiful things. Family members can confirm their safety in emergencies. Countries can unite to overthrow dictators. Childhood friendships can continue to flourish into lifelong relationships. However, the ability to share one’s story instantly has become a double-edged sword. While we can now relate to people and learn perspectives in ways that we never before thought possible, we can also cultivate our images and engage in a constant one-upsmanship with our fellow humans.
This can manifest itself in one of two ways. First, we can set out to prove that we are somehow better than the person looking at us. There is certainly nothing new about this behavior. An inherent desire to “keep up with the Joneses” has been with us as long as, well, Joneses. But the ability to constantly compare ourselves to everyone around us has manifested in the opposite phenomenon. We’ve begun a race to the bottom and used it to make the world feel sorry for us.
Such baiting has naturally become most prevalent as it concerns issues that were already polarizing. These include race, gender, and sexual orientation, among many others. Important conversations need to take place concerning these topics. But it never turns into that. Rather, we all try to convince each other that we have it the worst. The concept of privilege plays into this phenomenon, and a vague set of arbitrary rules determines the winner in a given scenario. According to these standards, white people have it easier than people of color, men have it easier than women, and straight people have it easier than LGBT people. The list goes on and on. But these faceless maxims say nothing about the life beyond the boxes into which we force ourselves.
More dangerously, we allow these worthless points to determine our self worth and our perception of ourselves in the world. Since the ancestors of most black people in America were once enslaved, the narrative becomes that black people are victims of a system that has sought to keep them down since the founding of this great nation. Insert a historical oppression, and you will find the same result among people who descended from the people who actually suffered that oppression. What follows is a spiral of fighting and hurt feelings that take up hours of time that could have been used for more productive things.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Sadly, this has become the reality that many of us live each and every day. But there is an antidote to this way of thinking that will become the lynchpin of every argument in this short book. It comes in two magical words: Personal responsibility. It is that all-too-rare idea that we are the masters of our own destiny. It shows that blaming “the system” for our problems is a waste of time that could be used to better our own circumstances. It stands for the notion that we are our own social mobility, and that we can overcome anything. It says that no matter what has happened to us in the past, we determine our own future. So stand up, believe in yourself, and remember that only you can change your course in this life.