Into Context

By Eva van der Graaf

‘Don’t take things out of context’. You have probably heard this before. Something along the lines of don’t take things personally, don’t judge a book by its cover or don’t compare yourself. But what does it mean in this day and age?  Everyone is so vastly different. This is a universal truth, and one that I wish to always keep in mind but one that I feel is being taken out of context in today’s society.

These days there seems to be a strong focus on feelings, identity and looking inward, which perhaps leads to living a more closed life. I believe this is a direct response to overpopulation, overconsumption and over everything and anything!

However, on the flip side of this individualistic narrative is an outburst of communication; being ‘social’ is easier than ever and is encouraged everywhere. Connecting with people – often by way of social media – is seen as an asset to personality (social behavior) and to the employment market (networking). We are in the midst of a communication explosion! Do we communicate too much? What is the quality of our communication? It feels to be a distant kind, isolated fragments of time and place – a ‘like’ here or a comment there – that simply cannot match the engagement of real communication. There is much to love about social media and how accessible it makes connecting, but I feel it is only a 2D image in a 3D world.

A holistic perspective on what is is to communicate is perhaps to take into account differences amongst people, cultures and environment. This perspective can not be static, the key is to keep expanding and amplifying your perspective, because your world and your reality grows as you grow, with the people you meet and the environments you find yourself in. In this regard, context feels more important than ever because (a) there are more people on earth than ever and (b) we are more connected than ever (through technology) and consequently experience confrontation with people, cultures, identities and ideas more often.

I believe we need a filter, a reminder, and that is to construct a holistic view on context. This is an awareness that there are a multitude of differences amongst people who have varying realities and numerous truths. Context is very logical. It resonates strongly with the world we live in – a world of extreme multitudes. So why don’t we implement this idea more often? Why do we find it hard to act within context? Maybe we are so encouraged to look inward that we forget our space in the world; you cannot judge from a place of isolation.

I am not saying to forget yourself and only focus on others, but simply to attempt to act from a universal viewpoint. It is a responsibility we all bear. There is a balance in keeping an open mind, creating space for other ideas and perspectives, without pushing your own ideas aside. Try expanding, not replacing. I believe that is fully grasping the idea of context.

Eva van der Graaf.  Born in The Netherlands. Raised in Africa. MSc WUR. Owner of WritingBy. Hippie at Heart. Photography by @happyhippyfoodie