Thymos

In an age of hyperconnectivity and interconnection, what is perhaps desired and sought out more than anything else by individuals and groups is ‘dignity’ along with ‘respect’ and ‘recognition’ from others. But what most people do not realize is that dignity, respect, and recognition cannot be garnered unless people influence others in a positive manner and by voicing their ideas, interests, and values to others. And surprisingly, self-censorship is the norm amongst an overwhelming majority of people as opposed to self-expression, at least in the United States. As one poll and statistic has shown, about two-thirds of Americans have stated that they did not feel comfortable voicing their private opinions and thoughts in public, mainly because they feared what others would think about their private opinions and thoughts. 

And the reality is that vocal minorities “create the false impression that they are speaking for the majority” given that the overwhelming majority of people are silent. As mentioned before, Twitter is not a true reflection of our global social reality. One statistic shows that 80 percent of all tweets come from only 10 percent of tweeters. As one writer noted: “Since most of us tend to mistake repetition, confidence, and volume for generally accepted truth, loud minority statements become accepted reflections of reality, regardless of their veracity.” Hence, vocal minorities – whether they are liberal or conservative or anything else for that matter – project the image of reflecting what most people believe or think because they are the loudest and they have monopolized the public sphere and have canceled and shut out everyone else from the public sphere, when in reality, these vocal minorities do not reflect the beliefs and views of the overwhelming majority of people.

In turn, people are more inclined towards shutting out opinions and views that do not reflect their own, and thus are more inclined towards opening themselves to opinions and views that reflect their own opinions and views. Much of this inclination has to do with ‘social feedback’ and recognition, along with respect. One is more likely to get social feedback, respect, and recognition from those who espouse their opinions and views than from those who have different opinions and views. We can better understand this inclination and tendency when we understand the significance and preponderance of the emotional and psychological effect which snubbing has on people. Snubbing reduces one’s sense of self-confidence and self-worth, and in order to prevent or preempt the reduction of one’s sense of self-confidence and self-worth, people gravitate towards like-minded people who are more likely to acknowledge their existence and in turn people create “bubbles” and “echo chambers” and ‘cliques’ and so forth. 

In turn, an increase in one’s sense of self-confidence and self-worth reduces the value which one places on what other people think. Also, and as Francis Fukuyama argued, one’s basic identity has an inner dimension that is an authentic and true reflection of the self and an outer dimension that is shaped by society’s expectations, and many individuals believe that they have “a true or authentic identity hiding within themselves that is somehow at odds with the role they are assigned by their surrounding society.” Yet, it happens to be such that: “The modern concept of identity places a supreme value on authenticity, on the validation of that inner being that is not being allowed to express itself.” It follows that one’s feelings of alienation and anxiety “can only be relieved when one accepts that inner self and receives public recognition for it.” As a result, there is somewhat of a contradiction and dissonance between our society’s claims of welcoming and being able to accept a person’s authenticity and the expression of their true inner self with the reality of our society and the unchanging expectations and demands for conformity and groupthink. It follows that the ability to accept both authenticity and the expression of one’s true self requires changes in the overall organization and structure of our society.

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