Learning to understand social pressure

When we judge out loud (by writing, for example), we project morals and values. Social pressure is perceived. It happens when other people project their morals and values and we begin to question if their views are better than our own. We can change and develop a new perspective, such an action is called “learning”, but we don’t have to. It’s all contextual.

A long time ago I met a girl who was famous. At least, she seemed famous to me. She was in charge. People were always interviewing her. She was widely quoted in this book and that article. She had a high profile job. She was “successful”. And then one day she just sort of disappeared. She was gone from the Internet and gone from the communities she had been a part of and gone from the busy, busy that is owning and maintaining an online professional identity. She was just gone.

We weren’t close, she probably doesn’t remember me. Or if she does remember me, she has trouble placing me. I didn’t know her, I knew of her. At first I thought, “Oh, she’s just taking a break.” She disappeared and I had no information. People I knew who knew her had no information. “Yeah,” they said, “I guess she needed a break.”

That was about six years ago. Sporadically in the last six years, maybe three or four times, I’ve looked her up. I can find pieces, tiny pieces, of the person she is now. I find how she did this project or spoke at that event. I can find about four bits of information that are new. To me, it’s as if her life stopped. She stopped. She walked away.

But from what? What did she walk away from? A network within a network. I know nothing of her. She could be a famous watchmaker going to conferences all over the world talking about gears and hands and clockwork. She could have won the lottery and spending her days on a yacht reading sordid novels and drinking Mimosas. She could be anything at all.

Speaking of yachts, I met a guy in the Amsterdam airport a couple months ago. He was a software engineer. His job was the software integrity and security for some rich guy’s yacht. He explained to me how he travels around to different port cities, and spends an afternoon here and there on the yacht making sure all the software is up to date, fixing bugs. I said “And you do this full time?” He said yes, he focused on the security system, his ELEVEN OTHER colleagues on other things – navigation system, communication systems, whatever.

I’m allowed to think that 12 people doing software engineering for one rich guy’s yacht is atrocious. I’m allowed to redefine “success” based on my experience of a random girl’s disappearance. I’m allowed to imagine she is happier offline. I’m allowed to project my own morals and values, and I’m allowed to pick and choose those that other people project and decide for myself if I agree. I don’t need to yell at people for thinking differently, I just have to remember that my context is different than theirs.

When we think about social pressure as being perceived, we build resilience. When we are mindful that other people have different contexts, we develop empathy. Resilience and empathy are good things to develop.

Learning to understand social pressure

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