Back when I still had cable, before cutting the cord and moving to Netflix, one of the shows I watched every week was Family Guy.
Before moving to Canada in 2006, I’d never heard of it. But my wife-to-be (who was in Canada) kept raving about this show.
When I eventually moved countries, we had a mini-marathon of Family Guy watching, and I was hooked.
Of many funny episodes, one of the ones that made me chuckle through the sheer ridiculousness of it all was one from Season 5 where the kids at the daughter’s (Meg) school have sex in each other’s ears.
This all came about because Lois (Meg’s mum) is replaced as the sex-ed teacher because of her radical views, and the replacements are a very strong Christian group who preach abstinence.
Cue the teens resorting to sex in the ear, because it’s “not real sex, so you’re still abstaining.”
Much like all of Family Guy, the episode is a reminder of how far people will go to fit in and be accepted, even if you look like an idiot for doing so.
Our Quest for Acceptance Dulls Our Uniqueness
Back in 2014, the Pew Research Center published a paper called Social Media and the Spiral of Silence.
One of the key findings was how social media had actually hindered our freedom of thinking, as opposed to encouraging it.
An example used was the Edward Snowden leaks, and how people were discussing that (or not) on the likes of Facebook.
From the study, some important stats were shared:
- 86% of Americans were happy to talk about Snowden offline, but only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were happy to talk about him on these respective channels.
- Three times as many people were happy to discuss the Snowden case both offline and online, if they felt the others “in the room” agreed with their point of view.
The first stat is understandable – given Snowden highlighted how the US government was spying on its own people, the reticence to say something publicly, online, is a natural reaction.
But the second stat is one that should be more concerning, and one that we push back on if we ever hope to have an authentic web that replicates us, as people.
Because if all we can do is look for conversations and discussions where our personal point of view is replicated (or a dumb one isn’t challenged), we’re simply sanitizing the web and – by association – our lives.
If You’re Pissing People Off, You’re Doing Something Right
I’m not sure where the original quote “if you’re not pissing someone off, you’re doing it wrong” came from, but this post from Oliver Emberton stuck in my mind regarding it.
There are many great takeaways from Oliver’s piece on why we need to piss people off, but one quote in particular stayed with me.
The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important. Which leaves you with a choice, whether you like it or not: where will you settle on this scale?
A simple paragraph from a blog post, with a simple question at the end of it – but one that has so many connotations, and one we should all be asking of ourselves.
Think of an argument you’ve been involved in offline, or a Facebook discussion online that’s gotten away from you, or left you feeling annoyed, or angry, or frustrated.
What do you do? Acquiesce to keep the peace because it’s “a friend”, or jump in, knowing full well you’re about to be hit with one hundred levels of ignorance and stupidity?
Or what happens when you see something so unbelievably dumb, you wonder if the originator of the post/status update/comment ever picked up a history or science book?
Do you smile and keep moving, because no matter what you say will pass over the heads of those praising the “insight” as the best thing ever, and so true?
Or do you think, “I can’t let the world be this dumb” and interject, even if it means you being called a dumbass, ignorant, and clearly a troublemaker?
If you take the latter actions, and take a stand even if it’s not going to win you any awards for shutting up and knowing your place, kudos to you. You’re keeping diversity of thought alive.
If you choose the former actions (quiet for quiet’s sake, or agreeing even if you don’t fully), then fair enough. That’s your prerogative.
Just don’t go complaining to the school board when your kid comes home pregnant for having sex in the ear.
Wait, that’s ridiculous? Yes, it is.
But then, did you stand up and say that’s ridiculous…?