“Try to believe we exist, even when you’re not there. We are independent of you.” Graham Greene, The Comedians
It is narcissistic to act as though others do not exist unless “I” am in their presence, connected, constantly communicating.
But independence of others is not respectable in this age of constant communication. Nobody is to be alone. Nobody is to be disconnected. Nobody is to be independent.
It is a modern phenomenon that people are expected to be available at all times and in all places. In the days of phones with cords attached to walls we’d go “Out” and while “Out”, we weren’t “In”. The wonderful difference between “In” and “Out” was that “In” was where we were available. “In” was where we were known and where others could find you. “In” was home.
“Out” was where we went for adventures, fun, friends, or isolation. “Out” was apart, unavailable, discreet. “Out” was where anonymity and individuality were experienced. Before going “Out” we’d be asked if we had a dime for a phone call, was our underwear clean, what time would we be back? “Out” was where we stood on our own, where the “In” person was tested and stretched.
After being “Out”, someone might call on the telephone and say, “I tried to call you earlier,” and we’d reply, “We were out.” People who weren’t “Out” with us wanted to hear what we did while “Out”. We had sayings that celebrated being “Out” like, “Be there or be square,” and “You missed out.” Nobody ever said, “You missed ‘In’”.
Today we’re neither “Out” nor “In”. We still have homes, but we’re more reachable anywhere by phone, email, texting, social media, video chat, and soon, drone deliveries and surveillance. We can choose to disconnect, but disconnecting is viewed as antisocial. “Out” ain’t what it used to be.
We are now expected to be “In”, always, always “In”. Friends and families and strangers can follow us everywhere and participate through video, pictures and descriptions. The apartness that used to make “Out” distinct is gone. “Out” and “In” are mashed-up in a glaussian blur.
Independence of others is no longer respectable, it is suspect to exist when they aren’t there. Narcissus is alive and thriving in our need and ability to be with everyone everywhere.