Happiness in the Unknowns

If the Bible were to be reproduced, “Thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself,” would surely find its place.

We live in crazy times. These days, social realities are generated in the virtual world. An era of snappy chatter applications – Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and House-party – where one’s social realities exist. Today’s generation would not be able to imagine life without the internet. Life before Facebook and Snapchat has ceased to exist in our lived realities. Life without a gaze at mobile screen would seem as dull as a glance at a starless gloomy sky.

We live in an era where real space is shrinking like never before. A decade ago, if one were asked whether they would talk to a stranger on Facebook, the answer would have an induced element of scepticism. In today’s world, we meet people and un-meet them within a few seconds. Instagram grapples with our narcissistic self and inordinate confidence. It is where lies become truth, relationships are perfect, family members are blocked, and everyone shows off the best of their lives. All through the day, we would scroll through the feed, and feel real.

As much as we enjoy sliding into the messages of others, we are also dealing with our inability to access reality. We are, therefore, attempting to feel happy in the virtual world. You know how it goes: you slide into a DM of a person you would like to talk to and begin your wait game. Even as you expect a ‘hi’ from the other end, you do not feel a thing about it. Within those 10 minutes of exchange of words, you open up about your personal, detailed stories about how your life should be. Half an hour into the conversation, you are expressing your melancholy about how your partners cheated on you, and what you did about it. And so on.

Realities have faded into an unexpected desire for the unknowns. In our quest to enjoy our virtual reality, we open up to the unknowns so much that we surrender ourselves. To the unknowns, we convey our darkest fantasies, miserable ecstasy, and sad desires. We create stories for them about our lives that exist only in our imaginations. You convey to them how much you hate your so-and-so friends. How much you would want to sleep with an erudite physics professor, who you had until then restricted to your dreams? For the unknowns, we create realities and recreate them just so they meet their perfect passion.

Why would we say anything to the ones we do not know?

One reason would be that we cease to have any expectations from people that do not know us. We also feel secure because we do not know or intend to know them. As a result, our insecurities are hidden in a toolbox that we would never wish to open. In this context, Malcolm Gladwell writes, “Sometimes the best conversations with strangers allow the stranger to remain a stranger.” The unknowns become our tool to deal with reality as it exists.

As I began inquiring why one finds it easier to talk to the unknowns, someone on Instagram said, “Every new stranger will evoke a new identity in individuals. As a result, with every new stranger, fresh self-identity is formed.” Someone else replied, “It enables you to explore a different surroundings and upbringing.” The stranger is like a clean slate. You can draw any version of yourself. A good friend of mine wrote to me: “We find comfort in talking to a stranger because we can pretend to be someone we are not. And as humans, we have grown desperate and lonely. Thus, we will mould ourselves into someone the stranger likes.”

It is crazy how much we love talking to the unknowns more than our own friends. Unknowns don’t judge us; even when they do, we don’t care. If the Bible were reproduced, “Thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself,” would indeed find its place. However, Matthew would have cautioned us in the next verse, “Keep thy stranger as a stranger.” With the unknowns, we always have an option of unknowing them. We could vent out all day long, everything we want, and have a veto over the ‘block-clause’. If the creeps come your way in the form of unknowns, which is far more likely, the block option is a touch away.

We seek happiness in the unknowns. We tend to find another us in them. Or know how the other is different from us. Thus, a stranger always contains an element of surprise rather than a pleasant discomfort. We tend to portray our life as it exists or as we wish them to be. Through such an exercise, we put a smile on our faces and reserve our realities for the ones we know.

9 thoughts on “Happiness in the Unknowns”

  1. It’s sadder than I thought.
    I’m from one of the pre-internet generations. I’ve been amazed at how much the younger generations expose their personal lives and feelings online for all the world to see, interacting with people they don’t even really know (heck, with AI, those people might not even BE people), and unable to deal with people in the real world. It didn’t occur to me that the lives these youngsters are sharing aren’t rea, either. Where IS reality for them?
    Thanx for the post!


  2. I am older so perhaps more able to reject or live without social media. I grew up when television was coming in. We must live in our times tho, and for a young person it’s hard not to be sucked up into a virtual life, hard to allow yourself to simply be yourself. We’re living in very strange times, but we still need to do good to each other and find our true selves as much as we can.


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