The pick up and digital nomad culture are more alike than we might realize. Both cultures are built on a desire to unplug from the socially accepted norms. That underlying desire reveals something unique about the psyche of the modern human beings.
The so-called game is allowing people to romantically connect with those outside their social circles. The Internet is making it possible to live and work independently of location. By and large, the game and the Internet are freeing people from the rules and assumptions that the society conditioned us to unthinkingly embrace.
I believe that it is in our collective unconsciousness to break free from the various norms that society imposes upon us. The pick up and digital nomad cultures are substantiations of such shared psyche that have come to exist in the deep of human beings of the modern days.
The social norms befuddle our minds by showering it with comfort and a false notion of security. Perhaps, we instinctively know that the unequivocal accepting of such norms is conducive to a murder of the self. So we all harbor the unconscious, universal longing for unplug from them.
Comfort and Self-Actualization
The endless supply of goods and services has pampered many of us in developed economies. By the allures of instantly gratifying nature of consumerism, the society has herded into a ‘matrix’ governed by mundane routines and arbitrary rules. In such environment, we stand a poor chance of actualizing ourselves.
Carl Jung argued that through the process of individuation, we can integrate our unconsciousness and experiences over time into our mind to become a well-functioning whole. But it seems that our lives are deprived of such beautiful and important transformation, because our minds have grown lazy due to the comfort and complacency prevalent in the social matrix. We are not conversing with our unconsciousness, and we lack experiences outside our supposed boundaries.
As we snuggle down in the comfort of the alleged social norm, we reduce ourselves to passive actors of preordained herd behaviors. We go to school, get a job, pay for expensive holidays, marry, have kids, and so on. Conforming to those social narratives makes us feel at ease, but also helplessly oblivious to who we are, and who we can become.
For instance, our minds become dull when we are bound by location. When not traveling, I sometimes come to a scary realization that I do not have a lot of things to write about. I see and think less, and simply do not have much things to say. Voltaire said that writing is the painting of the voice. Being voiceless, how can we ever converse with our innermost self, and become a whole?
By unplugging ourselves from a fixed location and plugging into the new, we can gain original thoughts and unique voices. As we integrate those thoughts and voices into our consciousness, we enter into a dialogue with our self, realize who we really are, and become it.
Similarly, the game can help us become whole with ourselves. Contrary to the popular misconception, the game is not merely a means to getting quick lays, but a journey to discover who we are. Through it, we can understand social dynamics among people more deeply than we ever can in ordinary social standings. In other words, we can learn a great deal about emotions and thought processes of people interacting with one another.
Such heightened understanding of social dynamics allows each of us to observe ourselves from an objective standpoint as an individual in relation with others. I feel that, however, the social narratives limit our self-awareness to the most proximate form. As a result, we become too complacent and myopic to picture ourselves in a bigger context and to come to a fuller understanding of our identity in this universe.
Old-fashioned Rules Obstructing Happiness
The dumbed-down norms have wrought not only complacency but also countless individual tribulations. In spite of such depressive tendency, those social norms are here to stay simply because once adopted by the majority, they are too hard to discard.
In his book The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker writes that “some collective practices have enormous inertia because they impose a high cost on the first individual who would try to change them.” I believe that such inertia is the reason that many people choose to live the social narratives, despite the fact that, in doing so, they might get stuck in unhappy relationships, jobs, or lifestyle.
For instance, people are often heartbroken because they are clumsy at meeting others. Through popular culture, we have come to subscribe to the notion that someday we will meet ‘the one’, and live happily ever after. Yet the reality depicts a vastly different picture: skyrocketing divorce rate, and relationships in peril.
Through the game, we can defy the old-fashioned rules of dating, and meet more people with whom we can make more meaningful, everlasting connections. Not only can we become happier in doing so, but also we can make others happier, and their life more beautiful and memorable.
The outdated cultural assumptions of location also gets in the way of our happiness. Even though the Internet allows people to live and work remotely from anywhere they please, the enormous inertia of the established culture is preventing us from taking a full advantage. Digital nomad culture is a grass roots movement resisting such cultural inertia.
For example, a new father might be happier working from where his family is, knowing that he is balancing familial and professional duties. An employee whose spouse relocates should not have to give up the job that makes her life meaningful.
Nothing invests our happiness with more value than the fact that every second of our existence is a gift that is fleeting away. If freedom of location, or the game, makes us happier in some ways unique to us, pursuing them by unplugging from the century-old rules might as well be meaningful.
Bringing People Together
Although we have so far focused on existential topics, unplugging from the social norms is not merely an ontological matter. On a most conspicuous level, both digital nomad culture and the game will help bring the people of the world together.
Ironically, in the world shaped by globalization, our societies are more stratified than ever. Once out of school, it is extremely hard to mingle or exchange information with those belonging to different socioeconomic groups. In the social matrix we are herded into, we only ever interact and make friends with those similar to us.
The divisive nature of our societies are just as apparent on a larger scale at an international level. The foreign policies of the superpowers have taken a turn for the worse in the recent days, promoting jingoistic and sometimes rather xenophobic motifs.
I believe the game and digital nomad culture will help us transcend the prejudice toward one another, and tear down the walls between us. The game teaches us to interact, and make spontaneous connections with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Similarly, traveling encourages us to connect with the others, and immerse ourselves into their cultures.
Franz Boas, the father of modern anthropology, argued that the differences among human races and ethnic groups are determined not by physical factors, but by their culture. Through the game and location independent lifestyle, we might stand a chance of getting the hang of one another’s cultures and psychologies. We might realize, once and for all, that the socially constructed walls among us are more porous than we thought.
Many of the social norms and narratives that we mindlessly follow are more or less arbitrarily agreed upon, and are often outdated. However, any daring nonconformist movement against them is often met with indifference and ridicule, because the rules promise comfort and security to those that follow them, and the cultural inertia is simply too enormous.
As a result, many of us passively, and maybe unknowingly, choose to forgo self-actualization, devalue our happiness, and turn a blind eye to those dissimilar to us. Doing so is tantamount to suffocating our minds, draining it of all that which we call life. We are all bandits longing to find out and become who we are, be happy, and connect with one another. We have to let those inner-bandits live.
I think that we already unconsciously recognize how seriously debilitating it is to blindly conform to the social norms and to live out the social narratives. The desire to unplug and liberate is inside the collective unconsciousness of modern human beings. It beckons us to free ourselves from the dumbed-down social narratives.
The similarity between the pick up and digital nomad culture is a hint of such underlying desire that is subtle but growing in our psyche. I was a student of pick up long before I came across the term ‘digital nomad.’ Yet, the process of learning the game allowed me to see the world by taking me to the most untraveled destinations, and shattered the illusory social conventions such that our lives should be fixated on a single location. The two cultures are, in many ways, pointing to the same direction.
All things considered, the grass is of course not actually always green. The misogynous conducts prevalent in the pick up community are ugly and should not be condoned. The loneliness and empty feelings can affect mental health of nomads, and those emotions usually arise as the excitement from exotic escapades inevitably subsides.
At any rate, our collective, unconscious desire to unplug from the socially constructed norms is growing slowly but gradually. It is actively converging in forms of various cultures and movements, namely the game and the digital nomad culture. The rate will only accelerate as more of us catch ourselves red-handed in murdering of self, and try to bring our life back to life.