Saturday, 8 June 2013

People Do Not Like to Feel Like Things

Shortly after I had begun using Twitter as one of my SM tools, I happened to "discover" a Twitter thing all by myself. I had by then learned what hashtags were and what they were used for. But, imagine my delight when I used a hashtag and did a search for it and found several other hashtags just like mine! I do not remember now the specific one, but I do remember thinking then that it was out of the ordinary; that, if or when I did search for it, it would be the only one. Wrong. The hashtag might have been something like #idreaminchocolate. Wait. Lemme search for that... There you have it. Several of them. At the time, whatever the hashtag was, it was just a thought I'd had summing up my feeling about that thing. It was, as I've come to realize that hashtags are, a punctuation at the end of my sentence. I imagine that's what the folks at Twitter had in mind when they created this tool within a tool. Hashtags are like the labels you create and place on different folders in which you place certain files. So, hashtags are labels. The long and the short.

But, how do we know how to label our file-containing folders using the exact same label? We're talking about a love for the decadent, perhaps mixed with other matters as we unleash our wit, and then we end it with something as innocuous as #idreaminchocolate. I think we converge on sameness because we all crave a way to label things; to wrap things up in a package, name it and place it right here where we can come back to find it later if or when needed. As much as we - especially these days - crave to stand out; be individualistic; be unique, etc., there is that other crave - to label things, for the sake of our sanity.

We've experienced it ourselves, right? (Are you nodding in agreement before you know where I'm going with my point? :-) Many of us have endured the annoyance of being labelled in some way, by...wait for it...someone who does not even know us. It's one thing or, bad enough, when someone who does know you tries it. Another altogether when presumption takes over - and he/she gets the label wrong, to boot! Why do we get so offended (most times)? Not many people want to feel that some stranger has got them all figured out. (Not to be confused by your dearest love who gets you.) Not many people want to feel like their lives are predictable and mundane that someone can sum them up, can them up, label them and, well, what's next? Stock them away for future reference. All because their "labellers" know where to find them as and when needed. Like labels on items of groceries? Normally, people do not like to feel like groceries. Or things. Normally, people do not like to feel like things.

See what happened there? A label of sorts. Normally, people do not like to feel like things. (I'll keep the "normally", being mindful that I cannot speak for the 7Billion+ people on the planet.) Labeling is a part of our day to day. It is a way for us to distinguish ourselves from something or to say that we are a part of something. Even in saying that we are not so and so, or not like so and so, is, in effect, a kind of labeling. The inference is that the converse is true - that we are so and so or we are like so and so.

To take it further, we know that folks may look at someone and, based on their own frames of reference, they file or place the who they are looking at, in a compartment in their minds alongside similar folks they have previously encountered. It's human. Adult human. It's how things or people fit nicely into such and such a place and helps us make sense of the world around us. Is it familiar? Is it not? Is that person like someone I like? Is he not?

What is most-called for, is to fight that "judging a book by its cover" thing and push back against the auto-file and take the time to see deeper.

I'm not going to act like this is easy to do. Depending on the circumstances (interviewing for a job comes to mind), first impressions are the ones we go by. Who would likely hire a candidate who chews and pops gum during an interview? For example. In other day to day scenarios, we meet upon a number of people we mentally note or label as stupid or weird or appear entitled or selfish or thoughtful or humourous, etc. We label, because labels, or the impressions or the mental notes, help us determine how to react or respond, mostly with some degree of self-preservation in mind. Not doing that, as hinted at before, is the second thought in the adult human. It screams guard down. Wide open. Vulnerable.

Is that such a bad thing? That's one of the ways in which we train ourselves to look closer; look deeper at those who might've been unfortunate enough to come crashing into us during our judgmental phase. I've been guilty of extended judgmental phases. One thing that has helped me deal with that is the reminder that everybody is fighting some demon or the other. Everybody has a story behind their gory. Just made that up. Heh heh.

I keep mentioning that our tendency to label and act/respond accordingly is adult human. That's because we have lived experiences and have got burnt or bit or shaken or stirred at some point or many points along the way. And, not only do we label, but, often, even after the label is no longer warranted, that's all we see.  (Reminds me of the saying, "If all you have is a hammer, everything will look like a nail.") For small children, however, not so. No frame of reference. However life comes at them, it comes. Anything goes. And, the truth comes out.


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