Elliot holds a very cynical view of society, questioning whether we really have any control or freedom in our lives, or if we're all just conditioned to act in a way that benefits the 1% and perpetuates our consumerist culture.
"McDonald's or Burger King? Hyundai or Honda? Hmm. It's all part of the same blur, right? Just out of focus enough. It's the illusion of choice.... You know, if our only option is Blue Cross or Blue Shield, what the fuck is the difference? In fact, aren't they... aren't they the same?"
We think we’re independent, Elliot would say, but really we’re each just another body in a sea of bodies following orders, inoculated and trained by popular culture to act just like everyone else.
I would say from personal experience that people who struggle with their mental health are more likely to criticize the society they live in, just the way anyone who’s suffering might. Happy people don’t find fault with their world, at least not close to home. But how do we know who’s right? How do we know whether there’s something wrong with society or just ourselves? Should we try to fix the world, or just work on our own happiness?
Despite all his critiques, part way through season 1 Elliot suddenly decides he’s done trying to change the world and resolves to live a “normal” life from then on. Much to everyone’s surprise, he walks into work sipping a Starbucks latte and accepts his boss’s invitation to dinner. The change only lasts a moment though, and we’re not really sure whether to feel relieved or disappointed once Elliot returns to his usual gloomy self.
Does “recovery” mean learning how to be “normal." Is trying to be like everyone else exactly what we need to stay mentally healthy, or is it the equivalent to jumping off a cliff after our friends? There is a good reason we try so hard to fit in. Evolutionarily, humans were far more likely to survive if they belonged to a group, since groups could hunt and defend themselves more effectively. We’re adapted to follow the herd and avoid rejection. But how do we know if we’ve gone too far? How can we tell if social norms have become so ridiculous we’d be stupid not to question them?
My solution: question everything. Question the “rat race,” question 9-5, question your assumptions, question your diet, question your workout routine… I think Mr. Robot does an excellent job shedding light on how common mental health disorders, loneliness, and just general unhappiness have become. Every character has their own internal daemons, and Elliot's internal monologue reminds us how easy it is to walk through a crowded city and still feel isolated. This fact alone proves there must be something going on, something about our society that’s messed up. However, as much as we’d like to change the world - and I definitely think we should try - life’s also too short to be unhappy. We can change ourselves much more quickly than we can change the world, and prompt personal happiness should come first.
It's certainly possible to find happiness outside the norms, and being happy shouldn't necessitate "fitting in" with everyone else. We just need to prioritize building a community of people with similar interests, and stay flexible enough that our beliefs and criticisms don't interfere with our ability to connect and enjoy life.
By the way, this post isn't supposed to give any conclusive answers. It's meant to be food for thought, and it's really just my random ramblings! Be a 1 instead of a 0, take action and let me know your own opinions in the comments!