Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Age of the Anxious

Today, needing something to get me to sit at my studio desk for the last ten minutes to get the last drawing of the day done, I started watching the series 'Luke Warm Sex' on ABC iView ('A' for Australian in this case)

I like it, and I like the host. Having just seen anomalisa Kaufman's latest film, I've now seen two things in quick succession that are positively dealing with people who are awkward at sex.

Now, I should disclose, I have a gripe. I'm tired of awkward protagonists. Put them away. My overwhelming feeling after I watched season one of Mr Robot, was that the main character was shitty, more so than the shitty twist (spoiler alert it's Tyler Durden) in an otherwise entertaining and interesting show.

I found that character shitty because he was a drug dependent dude that had social anxieties. But I understand the rise of these anxious protagonists that are only going to populate TV screens as much as they dominate slice-of-life indie comics now. Because we live in an age of anxiety, and it doesn't seem like the one-eyed-man is king.

Interestingly, this podcast from YANSS corelates the sudden explosion of interest in mindfulness to the rise of the smart phone - and posits that it has become a necessity because we for the first time in the western world we have an anxiety inducing addictive device in our pocket at all times. Which was interesting.

To jump about again, (and I don't know if I'll be able to circle back) I was watching a clip from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he took a Myers-Briggs personality test. Nothing about that is relevant except that it reminds me of a common failing of personality tests - Myers-Briggs describes the stable behaviors that make up a 'personality' being that 'we are what we do' and as such it measures preferences. The common failing of having your own personality described is that you focus on your personality whether it is one of the 16 nuanced personalities of Myers-Briggs or one of the more general 4 personalities of most quick-and-dirty and generally reliable personality tests administered in many business settings - is that it's just preference, it's how you tend to behave. That's what your personality is, it isn't a medical condition other people need to be sensitive to so if a test describes you as a task-oriented extrovert, doesn't mean everyone else should get the fuck out of your way.

What it means is that you are going to get tripped up in predictable ways if you fail to adapt, which is to say, work on adjusting your non-preferential behaviors in order to accomodate other people's preferences. That's where a lot of personality tests fail - to really drive home the point that you need to adapt your behaviors where your personality lets you down. Everyone will have to even with the weakest preferences.

In the same way consider this:

This video, like Mr Robot, left me with a shitty impression. Because even though I too wish that Airlines would fucking get rid of the reclining capacity of any cattle-class seats, it's perplexing to me both that these features exist and how adamant passengers can be on reclining as soon as their ass hits the seat. As a person who can be awkward but would never use the word 'awkward' to describe myself - the world should not be catering to awkward people. Awkward people need to actually engage the world until they aren't awkward anymore.

Conversation is a skill, a practice, it can be practiced and you can get better at it over time. Joining a group is a skill that can be learned, everything social can be learned. 'Neuroplasticity' the amazing scientific breakthrough that discovered that practice results in changes in the brain. Resulting in us having a fancy name for the word practice.

But it has also been on the backs of discovering the brain is more changeable that many people assume. Such that I posit that 'Awkward people' don't exist, just people who got discouraged and gave up early on the necessary practice required to attain social competence and confidence.

So I don't like Mr Robot's sexy protagonist that does drugs to stave off his depression and anxiety while working for psuedo-anonymous hacker group trying to take down corporate something something-blah-blah. Interesting TV yes, good for my mental health no.

But I don't mind an awkward person like Luke McGregor hosting Luke Warm Sex, it's perfect because he's actually getting homework and shit to practice and doing shit to get comfortable with sex and have better sex. That's better than the ABCs other show 'Redesign My Brain' interesting though it is, featuring a handsome can-do go-getter amassing a carbon footprint to demonstrate in seemingly the most expensive way possible that neuroplasticity is actually just practice shit and you'll get better at it.

It's hard to say that watching a successful graphic designer supposedly improve his creativity is more therapeutic than luxurious, whereas watching Luke meet a group of nudists and how often he apologizes during a ten minute segment for who he is and for wearing clothes or not wearing clothes or not being in shape etc. It's clear that this guy is doing what almost nobody I feel, is recommending, which is rather than accommodating anxiety, overcoming it.