This mornings post is going to be a little bit out of the ordinary, in part because I don’t really have a story to tell, and I also woke up thinking about this one. This post is a call back to my earlier post this week called “hip to be mean” where I talk about how frustrating it is that the default reaction at times seems to be to bash ideas rather than to bolster them. With this post I got a number of really good comments but one stuck out in my mind. Roger from Moderate Peril wrote “Plus I truly believe that we have entered an age where the old ideologies are waning and people are just more unpleasant and self centered.”. I admit I struggled with this statement for a bit when I first read it.
I wanted to disagree with him, because I don’t want to live in a world that is growing more cruel. However the more I think about it, the more I think he is probably right. The social media age has not been exceptionally good on our empathy. I feel like it has overloaded us in such a way that our only reaction is to worry about our own well being. When you are confronted with so much “faux crisis”, it becomes sometimes hard to detect when there is something serious that you need to react to. So when you see something… you never really know if someone is just being hyperbolic or if they really do need assistance. I tend to favor on the side of reaching out and treating things seriously… only to feel dumb a few minutes later when said person claims to “only be joking”.
Crowd Sourced Opinion
The other big problem I see is that we seem to indulge in a lot of crowd sourcing of our decisions. Social media allows us to ask questions and receive answers in lightning speed. The problem is unlike the real world you are often taking council from strangers on your personal matters. So if you ask if you should dye your hair green, more than likely the answer will sound a little something like“hell yes! do it! do it! do it now!” The problem is… these individuals likely know nothing of your real world situations. You might work in an environment where dying your hair an “unnatural color” could be a fire-able offense. I have quite literally seen that wording written into a number of contracts. So in being urged off the ledge to make drastic changes they could be pushing you into some real life trouble.
This crowd sourcing of our thought processes leads us to this dangerous territory where the loudest and most confident opinion wins. This “group think” leads people to drift along in someone else’s tide, because at least on some level it is simply easier than having to decide all these things for yourself. In some ways this isn’t a bad thing… for example I have this pied piper effect of getting people to join my guilds. I have the best intentions for every member and only want them to have a happy and safe place to spend their leisure time in games. However if my motivations were impure I feel like I could probably bend this same behavior to my whims. Not everyone has the purest of intentions, and sometimes people are just trying to use others to make a quick buck.
The Hive Mind
When I see a “movement” spring up on the internet, my first instinct is to react. Moments later however there is a second instinct, that I jokingly call the “snopes instinct”, where I start to question the motivations behind it. I’ve spent a lot of time googling various things I have read that seemed a little too perfectly aligned to be real. Sometimes it works out that the facts in fact do align, but other times you quickly uncover the true nature of the scam. We live in this time where the once fantastical is right at the tips of our fingers, but I feel like somewhere we have lost our natural instinct to be skeptical in regards to the things we experience. While I would never advocate tinfoil-hattery… I do try my best to “question everything”. Not everything is a conspiracy, but some things may in fact be someone trying to enthrall you in a mission that you did not actually sign up for.
I’ve been told that people trust me because I am stable. That I am the same person today, that I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. The strange thing about that is that I am constantly changing my opinions and outlook. Each time I take in new data I evaluate it against the data I held true before. If the new data reveals something new, or is in some way “more true” than the old… then I jettison the old attitude and replace it with a new, but not after serious evaluation. Because of all of this… it is not that I think we are getting more cruel. I just feel like we are doing a poor job of making sure the decisions we are making, are in fact our own. The hive mind can be a beautiful thing when you need to get something accomplished quickly… but it does a very poor job of adequately expressing your personality, hopes, dreams and aspirations. What it does do however is an amazing job of preying on our fears. All of this said, I firmly believe we have within us a radar for sorting out the conflicting data, and coming to a decision on our own independent of what the deafening crowd is screaming.
Source: Tales of the Aggronaut
Crowd Sourced Opinion