The Overwhelming Effects of Apathy on Our Personal Life
“Hey, sweetie! How was school? Did you have a nice day? Did you make any friends? Did you learn anything new? What’re you doing this weekend? What do you want for dinner?”
After a long, tiring, and stressful day of school, I was welcomed by my overly enthusiastic, smiling mother rushing me with questions. In fact, these are the questions that she has been asking me every day for the past 18 years of my life. Every single day. After she finishes asking her usual amount of questions, I simply respond “Fine, sure, no, or maybe.” I have found that regardless of how enthusiastic my mother sounds while asking these questions, I always respond in the same monotonous, I-couldn’t-care-less voice.
Unfortunately, it seems as though I am not the only one who couldn’t care less. Our society is becoming increasingly apathetic. According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, apathy can be defined as the “absence or suppression of emotion, feeling, concern, or passion.”Summed up, apathy is not caring about well, anything. We’ve stopped asking questions and started accepting that the best way to approach life is to simply not care. The problem is, we begin to let our lives pass us by and we ignore nearly everything around us.
So today, let’s start by listening to what is causing this lack of passion. Then, let’s care enough to examine the overwhelming effects apathy is having on our society before finally learning how to implement selective apathy to find that balance between caring too much and not caring at all. As much as I adore my mother, she can be a bit overly emotional times, well most times. On the other hand, I can barely stand any form of affection unless it is initiated by me. Does that make me apathetic? Terence Stone, author of Peeking Beneath the Mask of Apathy argues that apathy can also be used as a means to protect ourselves. He writes, “apathy is kind of a built-in defense mechanism – a barrier of sorts. It acts to separate our minds from our hearts.”This barrier gives a false sense of self control in situations where we have minimal. For example, let’s say that you went on an awesome first date with a guy who has yet to call for a second. Telling yourself that you don’t care either way theoretically should shield you from getting hurt; unfortunately, the risk of being hurt is always going to be there.
One of the most well-known examples of someone who uses apathy as a defense mechanism is Holden Caulfield from the novel Catcher in the Rye. While the typical response of readers is to instantly begin to criticize Holden. Not only does Holden keep everyone in his life at a distance, but he is also failing four out of his five classes of his current school and has dropped out of several schools prior to this one. Unfortunately, the habits of Holden have carried into the habits of real life students, as well. According to PBS.org, “1.3 million” students in the United States drop out of high school every year. As students we have become numb because we do not want to feel inferior to our classmates. We are failing to realize that it is okay to ask questions if we don’t understand. We have come to the unfortunate conclusion that it’s better to not care at all than to use our failures as motivation to do better the next time.
As this apathy epidemic spreads, we realize that it is no longer a problem that only affects our youth. This problem is spreading to all ages, races, genders and religions. Writer Matt Evanoff explains our misguided apathy in his book Dying of Apathy stating “We attach ourselves to transitory objects as if they are a part of our souls. Dropping a cell phone induces a mini heart attack, while we are unscathed to news of massacres and poverty.” Think about it. How many times have you just walked past someone in need on the street or turned off the TV during the news of yet another attack? In fact, a CBS News Poll showed remarkable differences in the views of people in various age groups on those living on the streets. In the poll “55 percent” of the participants aged 18 to 29 years old said, “people have become so used to seeing the homeless that they were no longer upset by the sight.”
We use our apathy to avoid feeling bad for those who are suffering. No longer is the “I-couldn’t-care-less” mentality plaguing our own lives, but we are allowing it to affect the way that we treat others. As long as we remain apathetic, we become ignorant to all of the issues around us because we don’t care. If we don’t care about anything, what reason do we have to care about those children still fighting poverty in African countries? Or even our neighbors, to whom we are so apathetic that we don’t even care that they can’t afford to heat their own home? We can avoid becoming another generation of lifeless souls.
It is time that we utilize the idea of selective apathy. By dismissing an idea as unimportant, we are able to clear away a large portion of the busy world around us. We need to use apathy, but we need to use it wisely. When it comes to social media, we need to minimize the effort that we are putting forth. Be apathetic about the small stuff. What we have to realize is that we will never be able to fix the fine arts or the morality of our society if we continue to be the apathetic about the larger issues. Whatever it is that you deem important whether it’s your job, your family, your faith.. it is better to find the balance than to choose to be apathetic.
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