If you go on a sugar binge, you quickly become insensitive to sugar. Apples no longer seem all that sweet. Only the sweetest, most sugar packed desserts seem to move your taste buds in the direction you desire. You become addicted to sugar.
If you buy and hoard all kinds of stuff, you become insensitive to which items actually bring you joy. This is the realm of Marie Kondo’s work on tidying up. People following her work tend to struggle with which items to get rid of at first. However, the more they get rid of, the more in tune with what makes them happy, the more their joy comes back.
In both of these cases, in the presence of too much, we become insensitive to different parts of the human experience.
Perhaps this is the explanation the deluge of where online vitriol comes from. In the presence of infinite human connection, we become insensitive to it. Engaging with someone else is no longer satisfying on its own regardless of conversational topics or differences in beliefs. When I was a kid we had pen pals in other countries. The feeling of receiving a letter back from someone in another was to be full of awe and wonder. The early days of email felt this way too. Today, I don’t even think about the fact the I’m getting emails at work from people all the way around the world.
Taking this altogether, “insensitive” isn’t an insult because it isn’t a fixed value. Instead, it describes the current state of someone’s human condition. Insensitivity is a sign that you are engaged in too much of something. What you are insensitive to lights the path to what you are engaging in too much. Illuminating our flaws is how we grow.