“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge”
— Carl Jung
Are deep thinkers rare?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Our modern culture has many incredible benefits, but it’s also creating generations of mental slaves.
Does that sound like an exaggeration?
Here’s why it’s not an exaggeration.
10 reasons deep thinkers are rare in modern society
1) We’ve become digital baboons
One of the top reasons deep thinkers are rare in modern society is that we look for quick answers to everything on Google or on our smartphones.
Before we even ask a question we’re tapping away.
Our curiosity has faded and in its place is a relentless desire to have immediate info and shortcuts.
We need to know now. Every time.
Our patience and wonder are gone and our average attention span is shorter than a goldfish (fact).
Nightly talk show hosts, politicians, and pop culture presents us more of the same:
Soundbytes, stupid slogans, us vs. them narratives.
And it’s enough for us because it’s short, simple, and emotionally satisfying.
At least for a minute. But then we get hungry again for fresh reassurance or outrage and go clicking around for more quick fixes.
The result is a society of easily distracted, easily controlled folks who care less and less about what’s true or even talking about the most important issues in life.
2) We’re overdosing on information
Another of the biggest reasons deep thinkers are rare in modern society is that we’re overdosing on information.
News headlines, clickbait, snippets of conversations, scrolling signs on downtown streets blare drama at us with every step.
And eventually, we throw up our hands in surrender and say: please, just stop.
This issue of being deluged with bombardments of information, irrelevant entertainment and snippets of competing viewpoints is actually a military psychological warfare technique.
It’s not so much about convincing you something is true. It’s more about convincing you that the truth itself doesn’t really matter.
This has been dubbed the “firehose of falsehood” and is generally used to confuse and distract enemy populations.
As to why it’s being used on our own populations, I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists…
But I will say, whether you think it’s to make us more pliable consumers or break down group unity: it’s working.
The amount of overpowering information and controversy swirling around is enough to make any of us start shutting down intellectually and sticking to the basics.
It’s enough to make even the smartest person start wondering if there really are any answers worth pursuing or thoughts worth having.
But in this modern world of information overload and clickbait drama it’s hard to break through the noise and have real conversations.
3) We’re desperate for belonging
Humans are tribal creatures and we seek out others naturally.
Even the biggest lone wolf among us has some need of community, purpose and group identity.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.
In my view group identity can be a very positive thing: it’s all about what you use it for, or rather what those in charge use it for.
Our need for belonging in modern society has mostly been used to manipulate and mislead us, I’m sorry to say.
Our genuine emotions and beliefs have been hijacked into wars, economic disasters, national distractions, and a declining standard of living.
Far too often, our group identity is being used as a pawn in someone else’s game.
This disempowers us and shuts down our capacity for deeper, critical thought. We hear the right or wrong label and pounce, looking for that reassuring tribal sensation.
This desperate need for belonging unfortunately leads us right into the next point…
4) We’re lost in echo chambers
Social and demographic divides are only getting worse, in part thanks to our hyper-online echo chambers.
We don’t think deeply because we just associate and chat with people who share our views or are in our “club.”
“Echo chambers can happen anywhere information is exchanged, whether it’s online or in real life. But on the Internet, almost anyone can quickly find like-minded people and perspectives via social media and countless news sources.
This has made echo chambers far more numerous and easy to fall into.”
I’ve noticed this trend among many public figures as well, to be honest, and leading academics, authors, and news agencies.
They will mainly associate and boost others who agree with them on everything and then pick one or two “token” people from the “other side.”
What they rarely realize is that their token devil’s advocates aren’t actually representative at all of another side and are just a fake, marketable version of different views that’s been designed for the consumption of their side.
For example, take progressive news shows or individuals who will turn to someone like Ben Shapiro as a voice representing conservatism in order to try to understand the right.
What they fail to understand is that Shapiro himself and his embrace of Randian economics and neoconservative foreign policy is widely disliked on the right and that he is seen as a poser and pseudo-conservative by many in the growing nationalist conservative movement.
Another example would be those on the right who get up in arms about, say, the inflammatory racial remarks of people like academic and author Ibram X. Kendi.
Encouraged by media furor that feeds off clicks, these people then go down a path of researching similar individuals as representative of the “woke” left, without realizing there are legions of social democrats on the progressive left who also find woke politics and critical race theory as espoused by figures like Kendi divisive and unnecessary. Picking your favorite strawman and fighting against them in an imaginary battle just turns the volume up on the echo chamber.
5) We consume idiotic media
If you’re asking why deep thinkers are rare in modern society you need look no further than much of popular media.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great films and TV programs out there.
But so much of it is total junk, from reality TV and soundbyte-laden crap about celebrities and scandals to twisted films about serial killers and mindfuck shows about grisly supernatural subjects.
Then there are all the sitcoms about 40-year-olds living in random apartments acting like they’re 15 and dating someone new every day or two. How hilarious.
It’s no wonder that deep thinking has been sabotaged when we’re only asked to consume media that’s written for the lowest common denominator.
There’s nothing wrong with not being intellectual.
But most of what I see climbing the charts at the most popular TV shows, music and films isn’t just anti-intellectual.
It’s downright seriously fucking stupid.
Does that sound harsh? I invite you to scroll through Netflix or Hulu and get back to me.
6) We want easy answers
One of the clearest reasons deep thinkers are rare in modern society is that our society has become focused on easy answers and black-and-white thinking.
We don’t want to hear about how religion is a complex subject:
We just want to either say it’s the opium of the masses used to control people or that it’s God’s eternal truth and you’re a heretic for not believing it.
We don’t want to know about the real reasons people vote the way they do:
We just want to say they’re racist dolts who hate people that are different or they’re heroes willing to tell the truth who love their country.
What if it’s not black-and-white?
What if the truth is that everyone has elements of truth in their corner and that we’re only going to get anywhere useful once we stop looking for overly simple answers and take the time to sit down and actually talk it out.
I’m not saying we’re all idiots. There are good reasons for what each of us believes.
But many times we don’t fully consider the perspectives of others or complex information about reality.
Deep thought doesn’t require you to be a genius. It often just requires you to listen and reflect.
7) We’re stuck in text talk
One reason we’re sliding downhill in the brain department is the way we talk.
So many messaging apps, texting devices, and other ways of talking have shortened our attention span and made us into idiots.
Lol, jk, wyd?
Talking in little abbreviations and emojis or random GIFs has created whole generations of adults who behave like 10-year-old kids and discourages deep thought like the plague.
It’s hard to have a real discussion of taxation or organic farming or how to find fulfilling relationships with some winky faces and a GIF.
So you end up just staying superficial. And then your own thoughts start becoming superficial.
It’s quite the vicious cycle. A hurricane of mediocrity.
8) We’re dominated by anti-intellectual corporations
Another factor that I consider fundamental to our slide into insipidness is the influence that large anti-intellectual corporations have on our public life.
Their big advertising budgets, sponsorship of large foundations, lobbying efforts in government and saturation of the public sphere cause us all to become much shallower and stupider.
(Not to mention less healthy and less happy).
When Coca-Cola sang about how “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” in 1971 they were seizing on the hippie movement and anti-war activism to pretend to give a shit about impoverished oppressed nations and colonialism.
Which they obviously don’t. After all, Coke is still stealing poor nations’ water supplies to this day.
But fake diversity and multiculturalism work great for giant heartless corporations because it gins up people’s emotions and desire to be seen as “good people.”
Companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, and many more all want to tell you how moral and refined they are with stupid, simplistic slogans that seize on controversies of the day to tap into your emotional response.
Meanwhile, Coke is still shoveling diabetes juice into our faces on the daily and Nike is profiting from Uighur slave labor in Xinjiang.
But don’t forget, they claim to be very concerned about Black lives and racial justice in the United States.
If you haven’t heard of woke capitalism I highly suggest looking into it.
“Increasingly, corporate America is deciding to seek a safe space by becoming ‘woke.’ Woke capital refers to advertising and branding that takes a stand on social issues….
From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, an increasing number of corporations are choosing to prioritize feel-good progressive slogans and activism over traditional advertising strategies that highlight the value or features of a product or service.”
Here’s the thing:
When we’re bombarded with messaging from corporations full of fake activists who then give money to fake foundations to pretend to fight for a cause to get good photos…
It makes us get hooked into their word games, too.
Next thing you know we’re word-policing and arguing about our emotions and the corporations have succeeded in getting us hyped up on the discussion and optics of the issue rather than actually taking action on the issue.
9) Deep thinkers can be confusing
Another reason we have a lack of intellectual depth in modern society is, quite frankly, the fault of deep thinkers.
They can be inaccessible and cryptic, keeping to themselves and saving their wisdom for those who will get it.
While I understand the impulse to just hang around with people who are into your stuff, I think it’s unfair to assume there are more people out there who would be interested…
I remember walking through my university library past rows of in-depth theological books written last century by leading scholars and seeing not a single soul…
Then coming to the pop psychology section and seeing row upon row of dutiful little first year students in gauche ugg boots grabbing quotes about “defense mechanisms” and dream interpretation for their latest essay.
This is a problem.
That’s why we end up with people like Jordan B. Peterson, a marketing mastermind who’s disguised himself as an intellectual by spewing word salad in a morally shrill tone of voice.
“Wow, he must be a deep thinker! Wow, he must grasp the real true secrets of life,” people say as they scramble to buy his book 12 Rules for Life.
The problem is:
Most of what Peterson says is very basic and redundant.
But his big words and gravitas in delivering it makes people think they’re engaging in “deep thought.”
When deep thinkers retreat from the public square you get pseudo deep thinkers like Peterson in to take their place.
In every realm, imposters start popping up when the real guys and girls head for the exit, tired of the madding crowd.
You end up with creepy false New Age gurus like Teal Swan and pop culture jargon that no longer means anything.
10) Smart people aren’t having enough kids
One of the top reasons deep thinkers are rare in modern society is that many people who are intellectual or involved in specialized professions don’t have as many children as people who are less intellectual.
They’re too busy with education, with inventing cures for diseases, with exploring space or the human mind.
This leaves more people who want to talk about the Kardashians.
Or take a gallery of photos of what they had for dinner and put it on Instagram. Every day.
This overproliferation of the less brainy also leaves legions of voters who think it all comes down to voting for the red team or blue team and thereby perpetuate our easily manipulated and divided populace.
Trust me, the corporate CEOs are still going to cash their fat cheques regardless of who you vote for.
If you’ve seen the 2006 comedy satire film Idiocracy then you know what I’m talking about.
“Scientists have discovered a new species that are believed to have been around since the beginning of man.
They are now the fastest growing minority in America and possibly the World. They are everywhere. Lurking in your subways, airports, government offices and Wal-marts.”
Somebody already cut the brakes on the clown car and it’s too late to stop the avalanche of stupid.
Can we press the reset button?
Yes and no.
I believe that as a collective it may be too late to turn this ship around for “humanity.”
Most critical thinking has taken a fatal blow and was zapped to death by smartphones years ago.
I also think that trying to change the “big picture” can often blind us to our own life and choices.
Indeed: as individuals and small groups I believe that the corrosive effects of technology and conformity can still be effectively challenged and changed.
We can still think critically and relearn how to think for ourselves:
We don’t need to be slaves to our phones.
We don’t need to just accept economic systems that devalue us.
We don’t have to comply with systems that undermine our planet and our spirit.
We have the power to breathe forth new solutions and experiences.
We have the power to reimagine community and solidarity.
We have the power.
I have the power.
You have the power.