In computer programming, you have this notion of conditional statements. If a condition is met (or not met), then the machine will run a set of instructions. True or False. 1 or 0 (or maybe 2? haha). Black or white.
It’s nice to have this clear distinction. But is it applicable to real life?
Often, I catch myself thinking in the extremes. Actually, I’m very guilty of this.
I’m embarrassed, but here we go.
Here is what I thought about long-term relationships and marriage.
If you get married, then you can no longer pursue your dreams.
If you stay single, then you can pursue your dreams.
That’s the black or white way of thinking. It’s probably more nuanced than that. Yes, introducing someone in your life will likely lead to a set of compromises that could alter your life course, but it’s not a choice between decimating your life goals or attaining them.
What’s another one?
If you skip a day from the gym, then the all progress you accomplish will disappear.
A skipped day in the gym always left me in a bad mood. The feeling of guilt and shame was probably far worse than the adverse effects of missing a set of squats.
Here’s a classic.
My goal, and probably yours too, is to be happy.
What happens when you are not happy? Sad? Bored? How about neutral, just plain ol’ content?
Look at your job. You can’t have a great day every single day for the rest of your life. You don’t even need to have a bad day. You can just have a simple, normal, boring day.
Does that mean the sky is falling? Not at all. You’re just living a normal life.
It took me a while to figure this out.
The pursuit of perfection leads to depression and disappointment. Thinking my life will be happy every single is a fallacy. Because nothing is ever perfect.
Realising your life is in between happiness and sadness/boredom is liberating.
Let’s take a look at society.
For the large majority, I think what wins our hearts and minds is the conflict between the black and white - it’s us against them.
And social media algorithms thrive on this.
A nuanced opinion would rarely get surfaced. In its place would usually be extreme, controversial and often harmful ideologies.
In this case, the middle child is unfortunately neglected, which makes it difficult to provide balanced thought or try to pander to both sides; there is a saying: when your audience is everyone, then it’s no one.
Love it or hate it (or something in between, haha again), social media is now a fundamental part of our lives. But it’s also shaping our minds to an extent to adopt this more black-or-white thinking.
Currently, I’m reading this book called “Fahrenheit 451”. The gist of it is that books have been outlawed. Firemen, instead of putting our fires, create them, to destroy all free-thinking literature. In the end, free thinking is bad. It puts you into existential dread, and what’s better than the government or large corporations controlling your thoughts?
In a way, it’s happening in society. Though there has been no law passed banning books, short-form content is becoming more popular and easily digested.
With books, at least you are given time to read and think about ideas and come up with nuance, but with social media, immediately after hearing an extreme opinion, you are forced into yet another extreme opinion, until it comes to a point where it is normalised.
This is starting to get a bit dark, so I’m curious. Have you been in a situation where you have thought in black and white?
This binary approach works great for computers, but not for real life, don’t forget the shades of grey (or the fifty of them).