Monday 26 August 2013

ETC: How to Cope

Closing off my three part discussion today. Post 1, "We Fear Fame" looked at why it's bad to stand out, leading to a society accepting Status Quo. Post 2, "Cliques are Inevitable" looked at how finite resources and the ingroup bias pushes groups into becoming cliques, or at least to the groups being perceived as such from the outside.

Cats:  They may not be helpful here.

So if being an individual invites undue criticism, and joining a group is a problem, what's the third option? Honestly, I'm not sure. The topic for Post 3 is "How To Cope", if we assume reality and society is as defined in those prior posts. Which might just as well be called "How I Cope", though I have a few thoughts below which I don't personally put into practice.


In part 2 I made the claim that "Now that we know, awareness will help, right?" The implication was no. The truth is a bit more grey. While I don't think awareness of the problems gets you that far, again, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT goes further. It's the difference between knowing you're not going to vote, and debating whether that decision is in your best interests. Or between knowing that someone is in the room with you, and actually going to them and saying, "Thanks for coming out!".

Preach what you practice
Awareness is passive. Acknowledgement is active. It also runs both ways, in that when there's an opening on your end, you need to engage. Don't wait for "the right moment" or "until I have more time", because we all know those events are never going to occur. Send that email to your MP, comment on that blog post, whatever. Incidentally, I am terrible at doing this, which is why I think I'm much better as an impartial observer.

A group collective may also need to acknowledge the "clique" problem as a whole. Perhaps deliberately shuffle people back and forth among regional groups that have been together for a while. Yes, it can break synergy, so take care, but there are times when we might welcome a change of pace, or need to be shaken out of our complacency. (Teachers who use groups, think about it.) Perhaps there's also some need for a gatekeeper. It doesn't need to be a person, and it's not because there's any sort of test, but if something exists to give the feeling of "belonging", it helps. Even convention badges can act as this form of acknowledgement, when at an event.

Finally, if you DO get acknowledged by one or two people... don't simply brush it off as being "ONLY one or two people". Look at it this way, if one or two people were mean to us, that would have a negative effect, so why can't we let the reverse be true?


Writing Tip: Secondary characters
may believe they are the stars.
You should also bear in mind that things aren't actually as bad as I've made them out to be. It takes a lot to stand out enough to get a spotlight on you, and maintaining contact with a small circle of friends is actually more important than shouting in a full room. Large groups and cliques be damned. We're all the stars of our own story. Besides, clique circles overlap, and people can and do belong to a bunch of different "clubs" at once.

Another thing, it's easy to see negatives if you're looking for them. That thing you oppose, be it the guy who was promoted ahead of you, or that group of teachers constantly putting down what you think are great ideas - is there really nothing worthwhile going on there? No merit to their argument? We can easily become victims to Confirmation Bias, where we only see things that support our current beliefs. I like the concluding bit from that link: "In science, you move closer to the truth by seeking evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the same method should inform your opinions as well." Google certainly doesn't help, often "suggesting" more things within our existing reality, instead of pushing on those boundaries.

Related to that, we need to consider the other side, WHO that person really is, and how WE appear to others. This is even more important if we're only talking about the internet, because many of the social cues we need are now missing. It's not just about empathy either, I think there's a connection to this recent article on "Bad driving", which includes such remarks as 'We believe we can see everything happening around us, yet we also think other drivers can't see us'. Yeah! I see everything you're posting up, stop ignoring my blog! Wait, really? You're sure you can see everything? Exactly why are you sure they can see you?


That's my final tip. In a world where everyone is doing X, because that's the norm, don't do X. Maybe even do Y. For instance, I don't use a Reader. Not part of that "clique", if you will. (Follow me, I'll follow you back! Sigh.) At first it was because I didn't know any better, now it's more of a conscious decision. This means I wasn't troubled when Google shut down their reader some months back. I'm also not having to frantically keep up with a select group of posts. There ARE about a dozen blogs I track through Blogger, and beyond that I click on whatever link looks interesting in my Twitter feed that day.

Am I missing out by doing this? Probably. Is it really that important to my everyday life? Doubtful. It also gives me something to blog about, something different, which may be interesting to others.

It's not like a major change is needed to be unconventional either. Shake up your routine one morning every month. (A different morning, otherwise it becomes routine!) Does the very thought of that make you uncomfortable? Good, it's supposed to. The problem with status quo is that we're not going to be faced with challenges. We're not going to make enough mistakes.

What, me Worry?

Oh, right, you will probably screw up. Did I forget to mention that? Heck, maybe I've screwed up a few times in the process of writing these posts. I'm sure I have in terms of my failed promotion abilities. But since I'm not popular enough (yet?) to have any sort of spotlight on me, I'm just going to keep on posting. Keep on living my life. Keep on noticing, and keep on wondering.

Oh yes, and then articulating, inviting you to do the same.

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