Tag Archives: social norms

How I stumbled upon selfies back in 2004

Sometimes social culture changes and something becomes acceptable so rapidly that it’s just remarkable. I experienced at least one such event in 2004.

In early 2004, I arrived in the US to begin postdoctoral studies. At that time, I still believed that hard work was necessary and sufficient for success. So I was basically busy working in the lab. I never really developed good social skills, so standard postdoctoral work life in US was “ideal” for me. In our lab, postdocs worked alone on individual projects and we did not have much of a “party” culture.

But there was one problem. I wanted to send my photos to my family back in Georgia, showing my “life” at the workplace or at home. But how could I do it? I did have a cell phone with a silly no-resolution camera and another ordinary 1.2 mega pixel photo camera. But who was going to take my photos? I felt so “embarrassed” to take my own photos since it would have implied that I was alone and that I did not feel comfortable to ask anyone around me to take my photos for me. Basically, the concept of “selfie” was an anti-social concept for me then (and also probably for majority of people in Georgia).

But I needed photos. So, I set my camera to a 10 second timer option and started to make my selfies and sending them to my family via e-mails and hoped that no one on the other side would ask me why I was alone in all these photos. And gratefully no one did. I guess my family was “kind” enough not to make me feel “low”.

However, within a few years the selfie concept became so mainstream that no one would now question a photo where someone is pictured alone. It’s become a norm. Ultimately whether it’s good or not, I am not sure. It does give a person some “freedom” on certain occasions and sometimes I feel “proud” that I inadvertently became a”selfie pioneer” back in 2004 🙂

posted by David Usharauli

Genuine politeness should come out of respect not out of fear

Today’s public space is dominated by the idea of “political correctness”. This basically means that everything one says or does are extensively monitored and analysed. New rules of social interactions are developing and are introduced for the public use with such speed that it outpaces majority of human’s natural ability to adopt and adapt to it.

Many evolutionary conserved reactions to stressful situations such as expression of anger, yelling, shouting, even simple direct, blunt talking are considered socially unacceptable and inappropriate.

Interestingly, on the other hand, popular TV shows are popular exactly for opposite reasons for showing what society lacks and aspire to have: an opportunity for natural reactions to challenging social situations.

It is obvious that our society did not develop a heightened tendency for “political correctness” or “artificial politeness” out of genuine respect to a fellow human being as in Kant’s philosophy, but rather as a consequences of real, perceived or imaginary fear of getting ostracized, isolated, or even sued.

Fear, however, produces superficial interactions and artificial social norms with weak bonds. Moreover, since our natural reactions cannot be blocked, they must be expressed someway and somehow. In fact, rather than helping, such re-channeling of natural reactions further diminishes societal harmony by producing chronic “mean” behaviors.

In my opinion, a genuine politeness should be derived out of genuine respect. Genuine respect develops when there is a trust. Trust, in turn, develops when people’s verbal or non-verbal communications are matched with their actions.

posted by David Usharauli