In the digital age, a lot of focus goes on personalization. While the objective of the personalization is to improve user experience and customer retention, it has the side effect of making people feel like they’re special. If I start thinking I’m special, I’ll feel more entitled and expect special or biased treatment. This also directly affects my value system, my expectations and amplifies my entitlement as my problems are getting compounded and not necessarily solved.
Our perception is built on what we see. Today, information can be shared faster than ever in the history of mankind. As species that rely on social interaction, faster sharing promotes exchange of ideas. Our brains cannot process the ideas at the same rate at which they are produced. The primate human brain is trained to identify fight or flight situations. A company looking to improve it’s revenue in a capitalistic economy uses this philosophy to grab our attention by constantly flooding us with a stream of content that act as clickbaits or exclusive news. In an attempt to go viral and make more money, outliers are treated with preference rather than the norm.
This constant exposure to outliers and exclusivity, combined with the entitlement normalizes behaviour where one tends to seek out unique experiences and not accept responsibility or liability to their action or inaction. The explosion of user generated data which endorses ideologies that benefit specific factions and their amplification using technology such as machine learning have the ability to impair judgement. I surmise that these are the reasons for intolerance in the world today.
Leadership in the world has become more about power and greed and less about welfare and growth. The definition of success is proportional to the power and money one makes. Although people say growth is everything, our corporate culture promotes a goal based approach to success. We are in a constantly “on” mode and are measured across a rating scale that looks at objectives and key metrics. The health of a company is also measured in a similar way using numbers like profits, stock price and such. If the numbers look good, the company has performed well else, there is a scope for improvement.
These measurement scales could be applied to an entity, but capitalism inherently lacks the empathy required for sustainability. Applying capitalistic principles to one’s life is asking for a burnout. Where I want to be in 6 months, 1 year or 5 years doesn’t matter. My life can change in an instant before any of these materialize. And ironically, every corporation also promotes mental health and wellness sessions where people are asked to slow down, be easy on themselves and embrace their shortcomings vis-a-vis humanness to avoid a burnout. I wouldn’t find it surprising if the contrasting ideologies are causing people to be more stressed and confused instead of being clear and focused.
Social media helps us stay connected but we overlook, how it subconsciously boosts comparison. As each one of us puts our best faces on social media it can create the illusion that everyone except us lives in a perfect world, causing disappointment, disillusionment and increased stress. Every “like” acts as a feedback loop equating the content to a reward that enhances our self worth and lends the illusion of being special. This behavior increases the feeling of entitlement if one is struggling and in a hard place leading to depression and other health conditions.
Eastern philosophy tells us to look inward for answers and peace. Knowing everything, is unimportant as the more I learn, I understand that I know little or nothing. It is important to recognize and embrace the chaos around us, give it little thought and continue to work on our priorities at our pace. Self awareness can be the difference between what we consider success and failure because as we breathe our final moments our last thought won’t be shared with anybody except us.