Fear of Wrongdoing vs Apreciation for Goodness
Society was once limited to people who were in somewhat direct contact with a person.
This is the age of the social media where it is all pervasive, with most of the social interactions moving to the internet.
Social media was invented to be a common platform for sharing ideas, thoughts and experiences between people , not limited by how physically apart they are. While this is very convenient and has a lot of use, its nature has evolved over the years…
Something which was supposed to be an extention of one’s social life , is now playing the role of society itself. And its very efficient at that. The circles are bigger, communication is instantaneous, each person has a wider geographical reach and all the interactions are persistent, as data stored in server farms.
Roles played by Society
The roles I see that society is supposed to play are:
foster a sense belongingand thus making people feel safe
- as an
enforcer of basic morality, by keeping check on individual actions by collective judgement
In the new online society, communication is instant and finding and connecting with people is vastly easy, it plays its first role with ease.
When you keep a profile to express the best things about yourself, and you share your thoughts and ideas as tweets/statuses/blogs and your experiences as photos, you also expose yourself to the collective admiration or judgement. Thus it seems to excel in it’s second role.
Thus when someone does any thing wrong, instead of being subject to the judgement of the people surrounding him in the life, he is exposed to a much wider demographic. There are many incidents where a wrong-doer is critisized heavily for his actions by any and everyone who cares. Furthermore, the humiliation is saved online for life.
This is the fear society is supposed to leverage to encourage people to be good. But the whip falls faster, harder and for much longer than it needed to, entering the extremes.
This makes people extremely careful of how they appear to seen be online. They present a much more agreeable verison of themselves and live in constant fear of embarassment, to the point of lying about themselves.
When suppression of ones true nature and pretention to look better becomes a norm, that is when we know that society fails to play its second role.
This is by no way a new phenomenon but it was never as widespread.
Problem with pretend goodness
The problem is, most people my age are afraid of being seen as bad more than they care about being a good person. They believe that as long as their reputation is intact, they are safe.
There are many downsides to this way of thinking.
Feelings of guilt
One can easily escape from public scrutiny of their actions, but one can’t escape from their conscience. This leads to feelings of guilt and shame. These emotions affect the quality of life and make it tough to enjoy living. There are many cases when people have gone into depression due to this. The worst thing is that it’s not their fault completely. It’s the fear of the whip.
Fear of being exposed
Then there is the fear of being exposed, so people spend so much time and energy to live up to it, that they often miss actually doing things which satify them. The newly coined term, Quarter Life Crisis, is when youngsters in their mid twenties are dissatisfied at their life and it stresses them that they wasted time on things which don’t mean anything to them. This loss of direction is very disorienting.
The worst is that this behaviour starts to develop intolerence in society. The less popular opinons are supressed by the ones held by the majority. This is when
Political Correctness a directive which was intended to protect the underprivalaged from the bullying of the majority becomes a tool to force people to conform to a particular worldview.
This is very toxic for a society as people are not allowed to have opinions other than that of the majority. Having multiple worldviews makes the probability of growth higher, as proven in history. The ability of constantly questioning the factual and moral correctness of our beliefs is the cornerstone of growth and harmony.
Even if a person is rightfully punished for his faults, but later when he has learnt from their mistakes and becomes a better human being, the past is brought up to judge him for life. This goes against the essence of punishment which is meant to be temporary and aimed at prevention of the crime and making the person better. In other words, society is not forgiving which is completely wrong.
I think the solution is that we all need a change in perspective. In this case the whip is too harsh and need to be replaced with a little understanding.
We are more afraid of evil than having any appreciation for the virues of goodness. We need to make people understand the importance of doing the right thing, and how it is good for all.
In the end, society is comprised of individuals and this mindset shift needs to happen in each of us.
When someone has opinions we need to accept that, give them freedom to have their own views as long as its not hurting anyone.
When a person has made a mistake we should not be eager to point that out, but to tell them how it is and how he can change it. I know this seems like going soft, but positive feedback as punishment is known to work better to mitigate future wrongdoings.
Instead of lying to the world, presenting a picture of us which isnt real, it would be much better if there is acceptance of how a person is. People do wonders when they are free to grow without the pressure of expectations.
And when anyone witnesses bullying of a person with differnt ideas, action needs to be taken. One dimentional , narrow minded thinking would have kept us all in the dark ages. It is our openness to new ideas that makes us the most dominant species on the planet.
I think goodness should be rewarded with praise and it’s importance should be taught to kids from a young age. Also, we need to learn to forgive people who have attempted to change after doing wrong. A changed person is much more valuable to society as compared to one who is tortured endlessly.
As technology progresses, it’s going to be increasingly easy to stay connected and if we just practise the above things we can make sure that that progess is only beneficial to us. The problem isn’t with the tools (like social media) but with the users. Tools are a boon when used right and a curse when not. We need to make sure that it’s the former.
Society is one of our most profound and wonderful inventions. It encourages us towards progess and nurtures us to safety.
I have great hopes for humanity, and if we all contribute a little, there is nothing we can’t do.