Here’s another trend I’ve observed lately: putting people into boxes.
Not literally, of course.
Instead, what I’m referring to is applying labels to people that remove any and all nuance, lumping people together sometimes based on a single detail.
What labels do I speak of?
Well, there are so many, but lately the type that I’ve seen a lot are things like:
- Trump Supporter
- Conspiracy theorist
- Flat Earther
- Nazi / Fascist
- White supremacist
And so on. Basically, these are labels that, once applied, remove any and all nuance from a person’s opinions. Instead of looking at the individual, the attention is instead drawn to a caricature – often the worst possible case, the furthest extreme.
I’ll use myself as an example. I hold conservative opinions regarding vaccines, because I don’t trust big pharmaceutical companies to necessarily put the well-being of people before profit. In fact, I don’t trust ANY large corporation that is beholden to money.
And so as a result, even if a covid vaccine were to be released within the next year, I likely will wait for at least another year or two, because I don’t believe enough time has passed for a vaccine to be fully tested and reliable. At the moment, there is a big market for a covid vaccine, meaning that these big pharma companies are likely working double-time to tap that market.
As much as I’d like to think it’s to help people, the cynic in me knows that corporations only serve one master, and pharmaceutical corporations are no different.
And covid aside, it’s a fact that these companies have released drugs into the market in the past that have ended up ruining people’s lives, or even killing people, before they were pulled from the shelves.
Basically, I don’t trust them, and don’t see why I should. As a result, I’ll be more cautious when it comes to new vaccines that are hastily introduced into the world. That’s my position.
But for thinking this way, I could very easily be labeled an “anti-vaxxer”, and what does that mean?
It means that any nuance and reasons I have behind my opinions would be discarded, and instead, I would be seen as someone who would rather let their kids die than get a vaccine. The fact is, there’s a lot of nuance in the area of vaccines and blanket labeling people who are skeptical as “anti-vaxxers” kills the nuance, which in turn, causes any legitimate concerns to be shut down.
The extreme exists, but it’s not everyone.
For anime we have one also, although anime is becoming more mainstream and accepted. The fact is, there’s a large range between liking anime and getting married to a cardboard cutout of a 2d waifu. But when some people see “weeb”, they likely assume the extreme. Because that’s the label, and that’s the box associated with it.
Again, the extreme exists, but it’s not everyone!
I hope you can see the point I’m trying to make here, which is that these sort of labels can often lead people to assume the worst. And it’s not healthy. It stifles discussion, and is a very extreme form of judgement, as it’s often not based on any nuanced details, but instead based on a label that could have been misapplied in the first place.
There’s just such a wide range of opinions and ideas within these sort of areas that it’s unfair to immediately think of the worst caricature possible.
For example, there’s a wide gap between someone who questions the JFK assassination, and someone who believes that shape-shifting lizards secretly control the world. Yet both technically fall within the “conspiracy theorist” box, don’t they?
Often I see people say that we shouldn’t judge others, or that we shouldn’t stereotype.
And yet, I’m sure many of those same people also put others into boxes just like I’ve described in this post. In fact, I know people who are like this in real life.
Once the label is applied, it’s so easy to just pull up the caricature in our minds and use that as a heuristic to judge someone.
People are allowed to form their own opinions, and more often than not, those opinions aren’t going to fit that caricature’s mold. Just like stereotypes, there are people that fit the caricature, but that doesn’t mean we should assume that everyone does.
And there are so many more labels than the ones I’ve mentioned. The only reason I could think of those was because they are the ones I see most often online due to how prevalent these topics have become in everyday discussion. There are likely so many more, and on top of that, many more that haven’t been created yet. For example, “anti-masker” is a new one.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say here is that we shouldn’t simply label people and assume the worst of them. Either take the time to learn the nuances of their opinions (in which, we may find some middle ground or areas where we agree), or don’t. But don’t assume the worst if you can’t prove it.
It may not seem like a big deal, but these days, especially when it comes to politics, I see a lot of threats of violence thrown around, and while I don’t want to see threats period, I certainly don’t want to see innocent people victimized just because they were tossed into a box for trying to express their personal opinion on something.
I know for a fact that I’ve seen many people make off-hand comments like “I hope he gets covid and dies” about someone who refuses to wear a mask, and I’ve seen similar comments towards “anti-vaxxers”. While most people won’t physically do anything, the fact is that in their minds they seem to justify wishing death or harm upon others because of the label.
Again, if I’m an “anti-vaxxer” for being skeptical of a rushed out covid vaccine, then I’m sure some people out there would wish for my death as well. I’m not even going to touch upon how bad the comments get in regards to American politics and the associated labels there, it’s awful stuff.
But I guess these labels can have that effect, because once the worst is assumed, people are much less reserved with these sort of comments. And comments on the Internet are one thing, but there have definitely been cases where people were mislabeled and lost their jobs or worse as a result.
When you’re interacting with others, I implore you to keep what I’m saying here in the back of your mind, and try to recognize when you may be using one of these labels and putting someone in a box unfairly.
We live in a time where there is more conflicting information than ever before, where 50% of scientists fail to reproduce their own results, many of which are likely those exact same studies that we see the media tout as fact. There’s more bias, more us vs. them mentality, more groupthink, more echo chambers, etc. than ever before. And it’s all accessible from the comfort of your own home, or from the palm of your hand.
Given the nature of information right now, it’s safe to assume that no one has all the correct information. Myself included. If anything, I’ve been learning about how little I know everyday.
Again, I’m not saying that the extremes don’t exist – there definitely are people that believe in the shape-shifting reptiles.
I’m just saying that we should give people the benefit of the doubt and try to look for more nuance instead of just tossing them into boxes and writing them off.
If we really want to be less judgmental, and stereotype less, then we need to stop blanket labeling people and start looking for more nuance. We’re all human, and we all have our own individual experiences.
And if we don’t want to take the time to do that, let’s just avoid the sweeping judgments altogether and move on. There’s no need to get angry and wish harm upon others for having their own opinions on things.
And those are my thoughts on the matter.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have some thoughts of your own on the topic.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.