Much Ado About Nothing?

Last weekend brought us another leaked photos scandal.

This article sums up the whole thing nicely, but I would like to present my hastily processed thoughts on the subject nonetheless.

Many people have proposed theories, some jokingly, some #forscience!, on why we start to behave in a rather peculiar way when behind safety of one-way mirrors that our computer screens are.

Just search for phrases ‘anonymity’ and ‘Internet’ put together and you’ll get millions of hits on various points of views on the subject. Ranging from psychological and social analysis to praise and advice on how to stay hidden.

Are we, as species, hardwired to seek excuses to stop being nice? And the whole complex system of society is merely a thin film on our aggression and distrust for others? Fortunately, there is evidence that suggests otherwise.

So what is going on? Why has a rather significant part of the Internet responded with criticism, mockery and even enjoyment when some women were denied their rights to privacy?

Victim blaming is an ancient and overused trick to quash our own sense of guilt or shame. “She shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt!”, “It was stupid of you to go there at night.”, “Well, next time read the contract more thoroughly.”

Why do we do this? We simply feel better. We boost our ego with such statements, because, obviously, we would have never done, said, or reacted like the people we accuse of not being wise or careful enough. We are the brightest gem in the whole pile.

We also like to find a quick solution or explanation for things we see or experience. The easier the reason, the better, because thinking actually hurts and exhausts us.

So, when faced with a bunch of celebrities having their private data clouds anonymously hacked into, it is less strainful for us to point a finger, exclaim that nude pics are bad, and move on.

We can even upgrade our social status (or we think we can) by posting a witty remark. We simply divide our social circle (people who observe our behaviour and interact with us) into those who would criticise us, and those who would laugh. If the latter group is (according to our subjective judgement) larger or potentially more beneficial, we decide to become an insensitive clown.

And it seems to be a subconscious thing. Even people that you respect for their sound beliefs and previous behaviour may surprise you with making a joke before thinking. And then not being able to admit they’ve made a mistake. Here’s looking at you, kid!

Do we really need to lower esteem of others in order to promote ourselves in a group? I hope not, but this might be a vicious circle indeed.

 

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