The Illusion from Social Appraisal, and Elitism

Sep 11 2010

The online social network, the blogosphere, or environments alike, have inherently ignited a bad side: They dilutes people into thinking they’re better, stronger than what they actually are, mainly due to social appraisal and social recognition.

Say you have a blog, you make a nice, well-thought blog entry, people read, give nice comments, have high regard of you. That’s fine. I think that’s good.
What’s not fine is how you perceive these feedback. Would you just appreciate their comments, appraisals, or would you start thinking you’ve achieved some kind of success due to the great social appraisal?

My suspect is that, there’s a high chance people will fall to the latter. And I think that is dangerous.

They’re easily illusioned by the social appraisal and thought they’re on the way to success, or they’ve achieved something of significance.

On the other side, such people that do real work with real impacts, are truly inspiring to me. Mohammad Yunus, Wendy Kopp are among the people that bring great source of inspirations to me.

I recall a question I asked myself some time ago about why people wanted to share emotional statuses update on facebook. My answer: People are lonely, they want to seek social consolation. But I believe the actual solution comes from their own thought and sanity.

Overtime, these social networks/blogospheres creates a notion of elitism among its members. Think of it along the line of an elitist group being impressed by each other. There’s a proverb in Vietnamese that nicely captures this: “Ếch ngồi đáy giếng” – a group of frogs staying at the bottom of the well.

I’m not saying being elitist is a bad thing, my point is it’s easy for those who are in the elitist group to indulge their attitude and make themselves feel special and superior.
I also do understand elitism is important.

It’s not easy to get yourself out of this elitist mode (at least for me), since this has been the motivation/relying point for those who never realize. Ever since I realized this, I’ve been struggling to position my head in the right direction. Stay humble, and assess yourself by not what people praises or criticize, but your own beliefs and judgment. Ask yourself: Are the works you do fake, or real?

You might ask then why do I start this blog? Am I wasting my time involving in this social circle rather than doing real work?
I use this blog to reflect my thoughts, to seek sanity through writing, and to share with the world my naive oppinions about the world.

7 responses so far

  1. Why is elitism important?

  2. Your blog entry somehow pushed me back on the question: “So do you compete against others or yourself?” Thanks Huy for an interesting read. This is what I realised a while ago; however, I was unable to develop into a stream of thoughts like this. :)

    PS: This is not appraisal. This is a “thank you note”. :)

  3. I think this is much ado about nothing.

    If people blog in order to feel good and smart, then they have a problem already — but if it works for them, good for them.

    You just need to know what you what to achieve in life and what it takes to achieve what you want to achieve and work towards building the necessary competencies to achieve your goal. If you’re good, you’re good lah; if you’re not good, what good is it if nobodies who don’t know better tell you you’re good — and big deal if you’re good or not. Who really cares? :-)

    At the end of the day, you will die. When you die, what then?

  4. @Zi: TED is one of the examples when elitism is important. Read http://www.ted.com/pages/view/id/185

    @An: I’d really appreciate if you could tell me how you developed your thought from my point to the question of competing against yourself or others?

    @Ben: I think you’re talking about an ideal state where people are in the right frame of mind. Whereas I’m just talking about a scenario where such things might happen. Well or at least it happened to me before (and still, sometimes; I’m still trying to get out of it).

  5. Sorry about this comment, but I don’t understand how you can link having social networks or blogs or websites as a climb on the status ladder. Did you meet people who think as such?

    People who have social networks are just people who want to stay connected with others. Sharing pictures and opinions, updating your status with witty remarks – I don’t see that as an elite way of communication. I agree that using social networks might not be the best way to alleviate loneliness as this is something inert that we have to overcome on our own (e.g. by finding a purpose), but, I still don’t see people with social networks as the special elite ones.

    (Ok, unless it is one of those people who boast of having 1000+ friends – That is just pure ego, but really who bothers? It might be just fun entertainment for that individual.)

    About blogs, sure, of course, there are narcissistic ones who maintain blogs or groups to increase their ego – but, surely readers (we) are not dumb enough to keep reading their blogs/websites if there are no useful content. If these individuals keep up their blogs just for their ego, but they are sharing useful and interesting knowledge, what’s wrong with that? There’s a lot of ‘good’ initiatives out there that started with a ‘not-too-altruistic’ motive. And, if the bloggers are obsessed with looking at the traffic analytics and comments made by readers, I don’t see anything wrong with that too. Naturally, everyone wants to be acknowledged (so, maybe this is the direction of your article – being self-reliant and confident of your own work instead of getting praises – but, this is another topic altogether). I still don’t see blogs (writers or readers) as being an elitist movement.

    Oh, right. The two idols you mentioned (Mohammad Yunus and Wendy Kopp) – they are wonderful people who did wonderful things for society. But, what’s to say that real work can’t happen from keeping a blog or social network? Bloggers can do so too. They share knowledge, they inspire and empower people in their own way. In Malaysia, bloggers played an essential role in changing the political scene (look up Jeff Ooi).

    Ah, I can go on and on about this, so I will stop here. In the end, I still don’t see a direct correlation between being part of the blogosphere and social networks with being an elite. I certainly do not feel like an elite.

  6. @Huy, cpyx has expressed what I sort of intended to say, but was too lazy to articulate. :-) In short, I don’t really understand what’s your beef and where’s the elitism.

    Someone who blogs and have lots of readers and comments isn’t necessarily elite.

    So perhaps you blog and a couple of your friend blogs and you say nice things about what one another writes…. does this mean you guys are elite or better than other people? Doesn’t follow.

  7. Hi Chrissy and Ben,

    Ah nice comments, maybe I wasn’t clear enough, and somehow mixed things up with elitism. Let me try again:

    Let’s just assume elitism doesn’t come to the picture first. My post is not about social network (blogs, Facebook etc) but rather about social appraisal. Social network is just an example, since that’s what started the discussion I had.
    For example: a few years ago when people started saying nice thing about my work/school achievement/smartness, etc.., I started to feel I’m much better than I actually am. That’s the illusion from social appraisal I’m talking about.

    The part about elitism, it’s a different point: in a group of people in a certain highly well-known group, it might (might!) happen that someone could think s/he is superior than whoever out there (normal people) that’s not inside the group.

    So I’m just trying to say that these feelings/attitudes aren’t good. Took me a really long time to realize these. All and all, I think these could start from the lack of knowledge and one’s sense of insecurity.

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