What should we care about?
When humanity is dealing with numerous overlapping traumas, how are we supposed to know which problems to prioritize?
There are no easy and simple answers for these questions, because there’s a mob mentality on what is important. Social pressure often decides what issues deserve our time, money and energy. The squeaky wheels gets the attentional oil.
In fact, people might even call you out for not being interested in the social causes they care about. They claim your silence makes you part of the problem. And if you’re someone who primarily focuses on your own concerns, then that’s highly political, morally corrupt and social irresponsible.
The challenge with where to care seems to be complexity. Infinite competing perspectives on every topic is paralyzing.
Let’s get real. Do we realistically have the bandwidth to campaign for civil rights, education reform, climate change, police brutality, public health, income inequality, opioid epidemics, government subsidization, moral decline, gun control, all at the same time?
How many picket signs can one citizen realistically carry?
Southpark did a funny and poignant episode about this social confusion. Mayhem in the town was erupting, and one guy asked what’s going on. His neighbor says, something’s happening at the town square, everyone’s gathering!
To which the first man replies, well, are we protesting or are we rioting?
And the other man says, I don’t know, but it has to do with the pandemic. Something big is going on.
What a perfect microcosm for modern society. Everyone is outraged about everything, but doing nothing about anything.
Now, that may just be hyperbole. Or maybe it’s my cynical voice getting louder. Or my inner songwriter that’s more interested in how words look and sound than what they actually mean.
But when it comes to improving mankind, I wonder if an ideal place to start is with a process of elimination. Perhaps we could give our society its best chance of success if we were radically honest with ourselves and each other about what we truly don’t care about.
Google could launch a free, public service, apathy based app to help people narrow down their concerns and uncover what they should care about. Because the truth is, so many of our problems can be solved by deciding which options don’t belong and what’s not possible, given our value system.
This act of deleting things is a logical, systematic and less stressful approach to caring. And it might remove much of the shame and outrage from the process.
What if each individual took twenty minutes, once a month, to answer a few basic questions about where they choose to invest their time, money, attention and intention?
I imagine that this software could integrate with bank statements, browsing history, email inbox, daily calendar, social media activity and other digital breadcrumbs to paint a picture of what is and isn’t important to you, based on where your energy goes.
Scott, says the app, it looks like you spent four hundred dollars in the last thirty days on food delivery. That alone adds up to about a hundred pounds of waste each year. Is it fair to say that you don’t care about our society’s single use plastic pollution problem?
If so, that’s ok. No judgments here. You keep enjoying your burritos, and we’ll keep searching and find something else that matters to you more.
For example, I noticed in your inbox that you have two thousand unread messages from several nonprofit organizations asking for donations. Would it be reasonable to suggest that you’re never, ever going to click on a single one of them?
Totally understandable. Caring is hard, and we don’t want you to have a guilt induced stress reaction because of this inbox backlog.
Our data shows your time is better spent engaging with your daughter’s school board than trying to plant trees in a foreign country whose name you can’t even pronounce.
Click yes if you want us to deleted all those messages for you.
See, that’s the great thing about data, it doesn’t judge you. It simply serves up the truth and trusts you to take action on it.
This apathy app is going to revolutionize how people prioritize their concerns. We could even gamify the process. Similar to how the dating apps let users earn badges for getting sexually transmitted disease tests and posting their results, we could do the same with apathy.
Each person could add icons to their own social profiles with a list of the top three issues they couldn’t care less about.
Lauren is thirty years old, single, works as a designer at a tech startup, and has zero interest in human trafficking, decentralized finance or interplanetary space travel.
Imagine how much time this would save. Imagine how simpler our interactions would be. Imagine the end of conversations about topics that make us want to jump off a cliff.
If people would just be honest and upfront about what realistically matters to them, everyone could all relax more, shame less and redirect our energies into more fulfilling directions.
It’s funny, all digital advertising is based on interesting targeting, but this is the opposite. It’s apathy signaling. Tell me that’s not the worst idea in the world.
In a time when it’s hard to decide what to care about, why not let the data help us discover the opposite?
The process of elimination is a wonderful strategy for uncovering solutions.
The hard part is going to be overcoming our guilt and being radically honest. Because the heart has limits. We cannot care about everything. And the sooner we tell the truth to ourselves, to each other, and to the universe at large, then the sooner we can prioritize the problems on which we can have a material impact.
Look, it may be true that mankind is the most ruthless and dangerous and unforgiving species on earth. But it’s also true that mankind’s evolutionary obligation to use all the powers at our disposal to improve the hand that nature has dealt us.
Maybe a good place to start is letting go of what we honestly don’t and can’t care about, and redirecting our attention and intention elsewhere.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How do you prioritize your energy when dealing with numerous overlapping traumas?