I just read that Merriam Webster’s word of the year for 2016 is surreal, an adjective meaning “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” The word has been tracked by google and other search engines to determine what people are looking up from headlines to individual searches.
Well, this year has been surreal to so many of us. We watched the world’s best athletes compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In the United States, we endured a grueling election cycle, from the Iowa caucuses in February to general election in November. The United Kingdom passed the referendum for Brexit. There’s been a definite uptick in the usage of live video on facebook, instagram and twitter in 2016. Additionally, there’s been the concept of the “echo chamber.” Social media news feeds use a system of user engagement to rank news stories, so it’s only natural that users become more exposed to stories they already like, believe in, or have engaged with in the past. Eventually, this creates a kind of echo chamber that limits individuals’ exposures to opposing views or new information—which, during an already contentious election year that included a deluge of fake news that was perpetuated as long as it fit with users’ beliefs and resulted in significant controversy.
I’ve noticed a trend with my clients facing a dilemma in social media usage. I hear people complain about widespread social media use and feeling ambivalent. On one hand, they want to participate. On the other hand, they feel compelled to stay in the loop or even feel pressured to update their profiles or stories. My clients want to lead private lives and still be relevant. It’s a tough situation. They want to share pictures on instagram, but don’t want to have profiles that are cliched or boring. Conversations like this differ from the topics my clients discussed five or seven years ago, when the questions were whether or not to join social media, rather than the assumption now that it’s a given to be engaged with social media somehow.
Another surreal aspect to this year has been the amount of transition I’ve personally experienced. I’ve had familial upheaval and have moved twice in less than 12 months. I’ve felt a sense of instability and I’m intending for 2017 to include much more internal and external stability.
This year has been very rewarding as I’ve witnessed some of my clients rewarded with major success for their own businesses. It’s been incredible to watch them set intentions and meet goals. It’s been equally heartbreaking to see clients and friends who can’t catch a break in the love department.
My clients have all reported having strange dreams recently and many have tried to “bring order to the chaos of the news.” We’ve done a lot of visualization and other creative exercises to make meaning of the world and to get present with their own lives.
I think the surrealism that’s collectively in the air is a definite shift in our collective conscience. With the new president, our world is shifting and it will be interesting to see what happens this year. I think people who once felt complacent are now intentional and determined to make changes in their personal lives as well as on a local or global level.
The calls to action have been really moving: I have one friend who is planning to run for her local neighborhood council. This is something she had been considering for a few years, but in her words, “it’s now time to get off the pot.” One of my other friends felt so strongly about her part-time employer’s sustainable practices that she quit her job after a few days and is focusing her efforts on ways she can contribute to feeding homeless people rather than creating more waste. One of my clients is determined to develop a personal practice of greater authenticity and is testing the waters of emotional intimacy. And on a personal note, I’m compelled to improve the food and sustainable practices of California and I’m researching some historical propositions that were voted into law. I’m also desiring a self-growth tune-up and planning to take a class in February on leading with my heart.
So, as you wrap up the year and spend time with your friends and family, I hope you wake up from this surreal dream and go confidently in the direction that speaks to you.
I’m a Life Coach and can be reached through email. Please contact me for accountability and coaching programs. You might also like these blog pieces: The 5 Misconceptions of Low Expectations, 16 Tips I’ve Learned While Working For Myself and FOMO, JOMO & Choice.