Somewhere, at some time in my life, I remember hearing some anecdotal, or weakly scientific, talk about how people who are more independent being more selfish. It was something along the lines of if you don’t let others care much about you, then you won’t care much about others. There was also something similar with loneliness, which is independence in some ways but seemingly more by circumstance than by choice, and there’s a tiny study (just 229 people) for that, which I’m not going to put any value in. Even if it were good, one has to consider one’s own situation to see if it were applicable to oneself since anyone can be the exception to the norm. That’s what being human is all about, isn’t it?
A handful of years ago, in my usual turnover of new interests, my social circles never kept up. Old “activity friends”, friends who I mostly only saw by activities I was engaged in and from where I knew them, who didn’t share new interests fell by the wayside as expected. However, new ones neither formed in as many numbers, in part due to the more solitary activities like art history, nor were they strong being new before the pandemic disrupted things even more. Me not fighting the social circle erosion, and then turning to dissipate it in practice with the pandemic restrictions being the perfect opportunity to do it without being awkward to anyone, and they to me in letting go of old friendships that weren’t often all that strong anyway, didn’t help. I’ve also been earning more, and spending far less without social expenditures like meals out, group trips, memberships, etc. I haven’t become more lonely through all these social circle changes, and the pandemic restrictions, but I have become more independent and “wealthy”, so I have a good situation to assess these anecdotal impacts on selfishness for their magnitude on me.
In some ways, I can be perceived as being more selfish. I say “no” to charitable donations more than ever now. In fact, I hardly ever say “yes”. That includes when there’s peer pressure like groups around me. However, I’ve just become better at getting better value for my donations, picking them where I deem them best spent fully, and not with like 30% on overhead and efforts to raise more money. There are plenty of situations where donations are needed in the world. No one can do it all. I’ll just make sure I take my pick where the big causes miss or overlook, and where 100% of my donations can go to help the cause, not 70% while the other 30% can do anything from pay for parties to disgraceful salaries of people at the top, occasionally people even more disgraceful than their salaries! But the true test of my selfishness change is in the percentage of disposable income (income after taxes) I spend on “gifts for others”, and that’s been slightly increasing, even though I’d basically call it “unchanged” from how slight the increase is. Some of this is planned spending each year, while the rest is from what and whom I encounter in life that year. But on that stat, at least, I’ve not become more selfish.
In terms of volunteering, I’ve committed roughly the same number of hours as before, within some small margin of error. Here, though, with COVID restrictions and the social circles being smaller, I’ve been helping people directly less, as I tend to prefer to do like with my donations. Rather, I’ve been volunteering more with groups like the Atlantic Sewing Guild, and with tech like their blog and social media, than individuals or families from before. My volunteering has definitely become less personal, but that doesn’t make me more selfish if I’ve been putting in about the same number of hours.
Socially, with fewer close friends, I’ve reached out to fewer people to see how they and their family are doing, but what would you be expecting? Besides, the rationale to let a whole bunch of them go was I was constantly the one trying to keep those friendships alive in whatever near death state they were already at. Good friendships don’t work that way, and it was clear those were not. I’ve become much better at realizing that in the past few years and learning to move on with indifference rather than any hard feelings. I mean, seriously, why or how could I have hard feelings for people who had never meant all that much to me? However, on the contrary, I found others in my life to reach out to, help, and such, from colleagues to “neighbours” in my building who aren’t next or near to me even. It’s not like I hang out with them as friends, but I’ve come to care for some more than friends I have had who never needed any help from me, though I’m not suggesting these people “need” my help, either. I might just be their most convenient or best option, but they could do with someone else if they needed.
So while I have been increasingly less connected to the world in the past handful of years, I can confidently say I am no more selfish than before. I just may seem that way if someone didn’t know my full story, which pretty much is everybody from how little I am sharing of my life with those who actually know me. That would be less than some posts on this blog because as mentioned before, none of them thinks of me as a blogger among whatever they most associate with me, that despite having a blog with about 19.2M views now. Such is my “secret” life! 🙂