We live in a world of memes. Depending on how you view the world, this can be joyous, or it can be a source of torment. I tend to take a centrist approach to the proliferation of memes. I use them on social media as a method of attracting attention to our brand. I find them amusing. On some occasions, I can find snippets of truth and wisdom that may speak to me in some way depending on what I may be facing at that particular time. From a negative point of view, memes have replaced contemplation and thoughts that are deeply rooted in intellectual or spiritual insight. They have replaced the concept and practice of dialogue. I would argue that because of the inability of modern society, memes have become the primary vehicle of dialogue. In no way can that be considered a positive social or cultural attribute.
I came across a meme recently thought that did make me think, especially in terms of how we teach our clients to protect themselves. The image was that of the lead character of the television show Peaky Blinders, and the lead character, Thomas Shelby. From an entertainment perspective I love this show, so I’ll leave it to you to research the background of the show and the character. The meme showed Thomas Shelby walking alone. The meme stated:
“I’m a popular loner… I know a lot of people, and a lot of people know me. But my circle is small and I’m usually by myself.”
We could write volumes about the social, cultural, and even psychological manifestations of what is being advocated for in this statement. Like I said, on occasion there are memes that make me think, and this happened to be one of them. As I pondered the meme and what it purported to say, some vexing ideas kept creeping into my thoughts.
The world has changed. With social media, a paradox in society now exists that is quite interesting. Never before in human history could a single individual be so individualistic, and perhaps reclusive, all the while being a social being. Think about that a second, and while you are thinking about that, browse your friends list on Facebook or take a look at your followers on Instagram or Twitter. How many of the people on those lists have you never met? How many of those people do you know casually, but could not provide more than superficial details about who they are as people? If you do know them, as in having met them in the physical realm, how long has it been since you have had dinner with them, played golf with them, or seen them in a professional or social setting?
What has happened in the technological world is that the person has been depersonalized. In my own circumstance, I have seen people in public that I am “friends’ with on social media that in no way resemble the person that I see posting online. This is not meant to be negative or judgmental. It is merely pointing out that the persona that is seen on a computer screen or on the phone does not match the preconceptions of the person that I see daily posting about their children, their professions, or other aspects of their life. I recently was in a convenience store and was approached by someone that knew my face and my name. I have no idea who this person was, and as of this writing I still cannot tell you their name. It was embarrassing and socially terrifying. I did not want to risk embarrassing the person or hurt their feelings by allowing them to know that I had no idea to whom it was I was talking. The person in front of me was depersonalized, albeit unintentionally.
Negatively, social media and technology as a whole has driven us apart. We now have relationships with people that if taken as analogous to a garden, no longer need to be watered and cultivated in order to grow. In all fairness though, we cannot blame social media and the online world for this in totality. Let’s harken back to the meme that I mentioned. Our character Thomas Shelby was a crime figure in Birmingham, England in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Is there something to be learned from him that can help us live healthier, safer lives?
I am not a loner per se, but I do have a very close-knit circle of associates and friends. I use the word associates intentionally. I can count on both hands with fingers left to spare the number of true friends that I have in life, and that is by my own desire. I think we throw terms around loosely in contemporary society, so much so that they rarely take on true meaning anymore. I have a simple test that determines which side of the coin you may fall, that being friend or acquaintance.
If I only see you when you need something from me, you are an acquaintance. If I only see you in a professional context but rarely if ever in a social context, you are an acquaintance. If you can’t tell me the names of my closest family members, or vice versa…. You guessed it; you are an acquaintance.
To be a true friend, the test becomes much more arduous. It is actually very simple in its application, but I would say that very few of the people I have known in my 47 trips around the sun could pass this test. To be a friend, the knowledge, skills, and abilities are spelled out in John 15:13:
“No one had greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” (HCSB).
That’s a steep mountain to climb, wouldn’t you agree? But there are key points here that truly define what it means to be a friend. Friends love, and they are loved in return. This transcends friendship. It becomes family, and make no mistake, blood and DNA DO NOT define family. Friendship is loyalty despite the circumstances. Friendship is not about convenience. Friendship requires sacrifice.
In my own life, I allow those close to me to self-select themselves in or out of my close-knit circle of friends. That is born out of experience. I used to believe that massive numbers of people purporting to be my friends was a sign of happiness and social esteem. It nearly cost me years of my life. If you are dishonest with me perpetually, if you are untrustworthy, and if you are the one that causes the little man on my shoulder to pop up on occasion and gently whisper “Watch out,” then you have self-selected yourself out of my circle. That does not equate you as an enemy. It simply means that the expectations I have for a sacred relationship have not been met.
What does this have to do with self-protection? Everything. If you are a self-protection instructor and all you are teaching your students and clients is physical skills and the soup du jour practices of “situational awareness,” then you have failed that student or client. We must also teach those students that come to us how to be cognizant of the world around them. Self-protection should never be compartmentalized, dependent upon the nature of the curriculum being taught. At the end of the day, what we hope to instill in our clients is a sense of hope. If you teach a client that has entrusted you with their well-being how to recognize the traits of a wolf, then a sheepdog will be unnecessary. The first rule in that scenario is to not let a wolf into your protected space. In this context, this means being selective about whom you call a friend.
Sometimes, less is more.