If there’s one thing that people love to do nowadays; it’s judge other people. Here in Australia, everyone has judged Donald Trump, for example, that fact that he has almost no impact on our lives hasn’t stopped the rush to cast stones. Some say he makes it easy, but does that make it right?
Where did this come from? Why is it that we feel the need to cast judgement on others even though those people are irrelevant to our lives and we don’t have anything like enough information to make considered judgements on?
The Outrage Formula Of Mainstream Media And Social Media
Newspapers and social media don’t exist solely to provide us with news. They exist in order to sell advertising space. This means that they have contradictory purposes. The headline purpose is to serve you, but the purpose below is to serve you up to advertisers.
There is one consistent ingredient to get people to stay on websites and to get them to administer those all-important views and clicks to advertising material – outrage.
The design of websites that provide “free” news requires “news” that manufactures outrage in the reader. The more outraged people are – the longer they stay.
This is a peculiar state of affairs given that most people would express a preference for “uplifting stories” but the things we say and the things we do are often different. Behavioural observations show clearly that people really prefer reading material that makes them angry when it comes to being online.
Your Opinion Matters?
This might not be such a problem if we hadn’t been selling in another message over the previous decades; “your opinion counts.”
This is an advertising message. It’s brilliant for advertisers who can offer minor customizations to a product and then sell you those customizations because they reflect your “values, beliefs and opinions.”
Marketers love the ability to use minor differences in mainstream globalized products to convince you that you’re expressing your individuality. And they’re really good at it.
I’ve certainly fallen for this tactic in my life and almost everyone else has too. “My opinion counts” after all.
In reality, if you have no real expertise in a subject – your opinion (and mine) doesn’t count for very much at all. For example, what insight can we offer the Large Hadron Collider team in Switzerland if we don’t understand physics?
Then there’s a third ingredient in our mix. Information overload. If you were around during the 1940s – your sources of information were fairly limited.
You might have obtained a little information on the nightly TV news and from a printed newspaper and if you were especially dedicated – you could also visit a library and borrow some books.
But you weren’t served “news” 24 hours a day. You weren’t constantly exposed to new sources of information.
Today, we are. Television, radio, cinema, etc. all have nothing on the “always on” culture of the smartphone that so many of us have become a part of.
Social media and mainstream media (which often work in tandem) are constantly providing you with more and more information.
Your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, your Instagram chums, etc. are sharing material every second. How can you keep up?
No-One Can Keep Up But You Can Judge
Research into recruitment practices have shown that no matter how complex the recruitment process; you can pretty much guess (accurately) who will be recruited in the first 15 seconds of the interview. Why?
Because human beings are designed to make quick judgements. Millions of years ago when our ancestors were roaming the jungles of the planet; the ability to decide that a quick glimpse of orange and black was probably a tiger was a major survival trait.
Your brain makes instant judgements to stop you from being eaten by tigers. Unfortunately, those judgements are often wrong. No big deal when you’re climbing a tree to avoid a tiger, if it turns out to be a bee – you’ll be fine.
It’s a huge deal when you’re condemning another person to social isolation and a barrage of anger because you didn’t understand the situation properly.
The Judgment Generation
You are subjected to an endless stream of information that is designed to make you outraged. You leap to judgement because you are programmed to do so and because, thanks to information overload, you have no time to dig deeper into things. This is how we all function in today’s society.
You are not to blame for this. However, you can step back from the abyss and choose not to participate in this behaviour. Disconnecting from social media and forming real social relationships instead is a great first step when it comes to remembering that there are real people behind the profiles and the headlines.
As I always say, everyone has a battle going on that we know nothing about. It is always a battle with themselves. We should offer compassion to what we do no understand, not judgement.
Judgement serves no one. Least of all yourself.