Social belonging is largely impossible in an age of reflection, because social belonging must consist of bonds between actual, concrete individuals, not between the individual and abstractions. As always, it must be remembered that abstractions do truly not exist.
In our current reflective age, the dominant abstraction is “the public.” This is an abstraction that is essentially created by mass, now social, media. It diffuses action to the abstraction, obviating any responsibility for action or even the formation of individual opinion. Democracy does the same, and the press is, as it itself recognizes, the engine of democracy. This is not a good thing. It is also the engine of the democratic soul.
More, incorporation into the abstraction requires leveling, the stifling of characteristics that distinguish the individual from their abstract identity. Yet, these distinctions are what make us who we are and what enable us to form social bonds. Think the complementary character of friendship or marriage or any organization.
We are not part of the public, because the public does not exist. We cannot find social belonging or identity in being a member of the public because to be a member of the public requires us to stop being individuals capable of forming social bonds.
Our increasing desperation to maintain the illusion of the public’s existence is why the heretic, the man who refuses to be incorporated into the abstraction is so viciously denounced.