How good intentions can widen the social gap
Social media is striating our beliefs, enlarging the gaps between us, and serving to highlight our differences to the extremes. It is a culture changing phenomena which we can not take for granted, nor willingly participate in without conscious and critical thought.
My friend Jeanne Ivy posted on her own blog this week about social prevention outlining the privacy and legal implications of what and how we share and how it is best to give more thought to what we share socially, which got me to thinking… and while mired in thought, I also read another friend’s post, this one from Joe Cook-Giles about Needs, in which he covers some of our driving motivations behind our actions, how some of our specific needs may be seen as annoying by others, and how we all should be more accepting of other people’s needs… and then again (because this is the kind of life I live) I read another friend’s post in which Emmy espouses the virtues of Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on The Art of Asking which covers a way to think about financing music differently, on a human connection type level of asking for help rather than demanding payment, and making it easier for people to provide that help.
All three of these posts have been rattling around in my brain this week as I work out whether I agree, disagree, or just generally feel about them… and then I came across this image:
And the connections became clearer. Sure, on the surface it seems like a hearty warming sentiment about a mother’s love for their children, and I am sure that was the intent for everyone who has shared it on their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or G+ streams. The problem is, it isn’t heart warming. It is a logical fallacy cloaked in false assumptions and the need to differentiate yourself through what has defined you.
- First: The logical fallacy is that without children you will have a clean house and lots of money. I’m fairly certain that no one actually believes this. Reality never works with such clarity or definitive results. Logically, you may have a slightly cleaner home and a bit more money, but reality dictates that the idealism in the sentiment won’t be true for you.
- Secondly: the sentiment (albeit unintentionally) completely negates those without children and goes as far as to imply that without children, people’s hearts are simply empty. I can assure you that isn’t the case for me, and I’m fairly certain it isn’t the case for a large number of people who don’t have kids.
But there’s a larger issue here: it is the need to define ourselves, and do so in a way that differentiates us from others in an effort to feel unique, special, or just acknowledged. It is a reaction I understand; a reaction to a world where social media continually barrages us with more and more granular representations of something interesting and special, driving the need for us as participants and consumers to follow the lead and find how we can stand out among the crowds and be noticed.
I have nothing against mothers, or any other group of people wanting to be acknowledged, appreciated, or made to feel special. The issue I have is when doing so denigrates, ignores, or simply reduces other’s assumed importance or standing in the world. (Another friend, Sarah, referred to this as “humblebragging” with class-exclusive content which hurts people who aren’t in that class.) We all have a need, at some level, to be understood and heard… some of us more than others to Joe’s point in his post. Further to Joe’s point, taking a moment to understand other’s needs and their driving motivations (even if they aren’t expressly stated), combined with a bit of critical thinking will help reduce the negative impact of some of these posts. But, before we can understand others, we must understand our own driving needs. Doing so will help us all as we go to share something via social media and realize before pressing the “Post” button, that what we are sharing may have an unintended impact on others. Taking that moment to understand why we are posting and how others may view it will help shift the culture away from the “me-me-me” of social and drive more towards the “us, us, us!” culture we so desperately need to adopt.
But, it doesn’t stop there, as that simple pause and thought pointed to what and why we are sharing will also help us abide by Jeanne Ivy’s post and reduce potential legal or moral issues that may come from sharing the ‘wrong’ thing or simply sharing without thought. Coming from a very personal perspective (and many of you who know me can attest to this): I have a deep subconscious driving need to be right, and if I am wrong, to understand why and correct my perspective. This need manifests itself in behaviours which many may perceive as argumentative or confrontational, when that is not the intent. By identifying this motivating need, and pausing before I share or reply to a post, I’ve been able to avoid potential issues as touched on by Jeanne’s post above, and either re-frame my words to improve clarity of intent, or to bypass sharing altogether.
My motivation for posting this particular article today is two-fold:
One: I’d like to do my small part to help shift the culture of social sharing away from exclusively and inwardly focused posts to a more outwardly and inclusively focused realm, where we stop saying “me me me”, and start saying “us, us, us”! Two: I see my own blog posts and other social shares to be that same kind of connection which Emmy highlights in her share of Amanda Palmer’s talk. No, I’m not saying that I want you to pay me to post to this blog, rather that like the flower Amanda would hand to those who tossed change into her hat, I see that same connection with all of you in our interactions. Instead of change in a hat, however, you pay me with “likes”, “plusses”, “comments”, and “shares”. So while one of my needs may also be to be heard and validated, it is also to give back; to provide value where I can, to call out problems when I see them, and hopefully help as I am able, and like Amanda, ask you to help with this culture shift as well.