The pain of irrelevance poisons self-esteem today as never before. In a hyper-connected digital society, seeing and being seen is one of the sources of meaning of existence. One moves away from that disturbing territory of transparent individuals as his presence in the world is rewarded with likes and followers. The penalty of being rejected in another era is now falling into irrelevance.
The Jewish thinker, Yuval Noah Harari, in his book «21 Keys to the 21st Century», does not tell us that those professionals who do not adapt to the digital revolution will be fired, will end up poor or will have depression, no, what Harari says is that they will be irrelevant.
The arrival of the Internet has socialized notoriety and made it available to everyone. Beyond the 15 institutional minutes that Warhol proposed, today being sought out, followed and listened to is potentially within everyone’s reach.
Of all the irrelevancies, perhaps the most bitter is the one we unfortunately read about in the newspapers. Recently it happened again: an old woman located dead in her home after several years of death. There is nothing new about someone disappearing and their absence does not generate any alarm. The Spanish writer Maria Zambrano said that only those we love die, that the others simply disappear. To be diluted and not be noticed is supreme irrelevance.
There are no limits to being relevant in life. For some it is enough to be a reference in their family, in their group of friends or colleagues. Others, however, aspire to a protagonism that exceeds their close circle: fame.
Until now, one could only aspire to popularity by standing out in some activity: sport, music, cinema or politics, for example. Reaching that point of public acknowledgement was within the reach of very few; it was not just a matter of standing out, the few media had to support it. The arrival of the Internet has socialized notoriety and made it available to everyone. Beyond the 15 institutional minutes that Warhol proposed, today being sought out, followed and listened to is potentially within everyone’s reach.
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow enunciated his theory of human needs last century. This author argued that people go up steps, up to five, in a hypothetical pyramid and thus we cover what he called needs. Of the five that he exposes, two of them imply, in some way, notoriety: the third need is affiliation, that is, to be part of some group, and the fourth is recognition, to be valued by others. To be visible is not, therefore, an option, it is a significant human aspiration.
To be recognized by someone as worthy of orbiting around their gravitational field has become a dominant motive in the new society. The importance of people is associated with their popularity, which is defined by the number of connections they enjoy. This business card is so important to some, if not many, that they go so far as to buy fake followers in order to artificially raise the importance they give to themselves.
Irrelevance, in general, has never been a tasteful meal, it is the main enemy to be beaten today. However, as the novel, it is the chronicle of a death foretold, since the vast majority of us will never achieve significant notoriety. There is simply not room for everyone in the popularity bubble.
It is essential to help young people develop the emotional and cognitive mechanisms needed to deal with the frustration of not achieving a dream.
The person who shares a nouvelle cuisine style plate with his group of followers sits down to wait for the approval response from his fans. The first moments are of enormous tension, all uncertainty. Finally likes begin to arrive, one, two, 15, 40, … «There is no doubt, I have done it again, in front of you, an influence.»
Playing the game of social relevance is perverse because it is never enough. Whether through likes or followers, one wants more and more and the task to achieve it becomes an obsession.
Many studies have highlighted the pathologies associated with the hard pursuit of social positioning. It is not only a matter of inattention to other aspects of life, such as studies in young people, nor even of anxiety or distress, it is the very self-esteem that is at risk. From the moment a person sets a standard, which is never reached because it is never enough, the feeling of frustration and failure governs their state of mind.
It is essential to help young people develop the emotional and cognitive mechanisms needed to deal with the frustration of not achieving a dream. Before that, it is vital that they recognize the value of visibility in its proper measure, to take them away from the superficiality of posture and to teach them that the best fan is oneself, the one with whom they will spend the rest of their lives.
If we were to make a top ten of popularity, the number one would be the one that keeps or increases once passed away. We’re talking about something very different from fame: glory.
Those who have popularity in life aspire to keep their mark beyond their death. Few are chosen in this regard.
There have been several surveys asking which figure will still be remembered in a thousand years’ time. They all agree on one, Neil Armstong, the first human being to set foot on the moon.
So, eternal glory seems out of reach. Meanwhile, the rest of us will conform to the words of the unknown artist Banksy, who said: «One dies twice, once when he stops breathing; the other when someone says his name for the last time.
As you may have noticed, you are presented with many options in life to achieve the desired relevance. If even so, you do not find your roadmap to be the reference for others, you have to hold on to the «Copernican principle of mediocrity», that, in the purest Paulo Coelho style, reminds you that the universe has chosen you to do important things.