Five Lies Society Tells Us
Society is a liar, the equivalent of your parents telling you that Santa exists, demons aren’t real, your pet is just sleeping, and that brown liquid in that bottle is “adult water.”
It is a manipulator, steering you towards people you’re not interested in, careers you think are boring, and entertainment you think is mediocre. It instead pushes you towards things you could really care less about, things that you see the importance of but don’t relate to, issues you understand but don’t build passion in you.
And, above all things, society is a mob mentality. It is one voice that combines its lies with the acceptance of the people within it in order to push forward an agenda that, more often than not, hurts its own members. While society can band together in order to do amazing things, it generally serves to silence outside voices, ideas, and perspectives.
So why do we listen to society? Why, if society is a liar, a monster that highlights your fears and dilutes your strengths, would anyone listen to it?
Because the greatest strength of society is that its lies are comforting.
This isn’t true for everyone, but it must be true for many people; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be talking about it.
Society is comfortable. It gives you the idea that you can belong, and you should belong, to a community. That is human nature, after all; to be in a community.
But there's a cost.
That comfort of a community means — for most of us — being tied in to the ideals and worldview of that society.
It means assimilating.
It means burying the things you love that might not fit that society.
It means you’re complicit in the disappearance of self.
Humans love to be part of a community, but we’re also the keepers of our individuality. We’re not meant to fully acclimate and be a yes voice in society — that hasn’t been our history.
Human history is filled with outsiders, the loners, the brilliant but awkward geniuses, the artistic voices that have drawn inspiration from torment. It is here where humanity has truly risen and thrived.
Society will tell you this is not true.
But that is the first lie.
1. Individuality is nice but overrated
Society loves to pretend it loves individuality, but it doesn’t. Individuality does not serve the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t lend itself to a particular belief system. It doesn’t follow blindly the outline of the society it was created in.
Individuality is the sole design and creation of an individual, like you. It is the accumulation of everything you’ve ever been through, everything you’ve ever loved, the lessons you’ve learned, etc. It is you.
You are an independent person. You think and feel and create on your own terms. If you do this outside of society, without asking for permission or waiting for approval, you are showing that society is not needed in order to build a life for yourself.
That is a dangerous idea, one that society is not too fond of. So it pretends to welcome individuality for the purpose of trying to lure you into a false sense of security; then it will try to change you.
2. X political party, Y religion, Z perspective is absolutely right
No one wants to think about this, especially in the current geopolitical and humanitarian climate but it must be said:
Society’s approval of religions (or secular thought), political parties, or perspective does not mean it is absolutely, totally, 100 percent right. This is true even if right now, society mirrors your own perspective.
Society has been wrong before; it was not too long ago that a certain society thought that enslaving Africans was normal, or that eugenics should be not only tolerated, but studied on a government level. There are societies right now that think that women’s rights are a myth, that white Christian men are superior to everyone, and does Daesh even need to be mentioned?
Here’s the point — you should be careful about tagging along on society’s train of thought blindly. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Although society can be right now and again, it is very often wrong, especially in hindsight.
3. ___ is a cultural phenomenon everyone loves
The Walking Dead. Friends. Game of Thrones. Taylor Swift. Katy Perry.
How many times has society told us that the musicians and shows listed above are treasures, even though a growing amount of people are finding fault with each? How many times have celebrities, films, shows, artists, musicians been celebrated, both on their birthdays or on anniversaries of releases?
Cultural phenomenons are a way that society brings everyone together. If you haven’t heard/watched/seen/loved X, Y, or Z, “you’re missing out.”
Well, are you? What if you’re not into pop music, swords-and-sandals epics, zombies, or upper-class white people in New York? What if that wasn’t your experience growing up, or if it wasn’t what you love?
It’s true that not having these pop culture references can alienate you a bit from society. After all, society today is built on two things: shared public treasures and complaining.
While my definition of society can — and should — be debated, the fact remains that cultural phenomenons continue to be one of the fastest ways for individuals to connect with each other and with society at large. If you don’t love these phenomenons, then people tend to think of you as strange or out of step with culture.
Neither is true, but the feeling you get when confronted with the question: “Oh my god, you’ve haven’t heard/watched/read ___” is the result society wants.
Why? That’s a difficult question, but perhaps a simple way of thinking about it is this: society wants to control our consumption habits in order to determine the best possible outcome for cultural things that are already in the pipeline.
4. Those against society are always wrong
This goes back to #2 on this list, where I spoke about how society tries to dictate what is the “right” view of not only itself, but the world. This is also where you realize society’s favorite game:
The rise and fall of public figures, and in current society, individuals on social media.
Society likes to engineer the rise and fall of public figures much in the way that the Roman Empire created their gladiators — it finds a person that embodies an ideal that is popular, builds them up on a pedestal, and, when society is ready for a change, it tears down what is has built.
Now that society has found a home on the internet, the effects can be more immediate. Between trolling and subtweeting, open letters and shaming of X person talking about Y issue, individuals are currently finding themselves on the opposite side of society, which can be a difficult position.
In 2017, this position is held almost exclusively for conservatives and far-right extremists, although celebrities continue to find themselves being torn down by the same society they helped put into place.
While you might believe that hard-right individuals deserve to be pummeled for being wrong, remember: it wasn’t too long ago that liberals and idealists were in the same position. It is possible to disagree with an individual and denounce the treatment they are receiving, particularly if they are genuine and rational in their arguments.
When society chooses to say that someone is wrong, it expects everyone to fall in line and shun the person that is wrong.
But humanity doesn’t work that way. Critical thinking and reasoning does account for something. A blind faith in the idea that society is always right and its dissidents are always wrong is dangerous because it sets the precedent for corrupt and cruel behavior that society might commend in the future.
5. You are only valuable if society sees you as valuable
This is perhaps the lie I personally believed the longest — the idea that self-worth can only be measured by how much society appreciates or engages in myself and my work.
It’s not true.
But it’s hard to hear, especially for people who work and are successful within society. They have a career based on what it can provide for a society, and some people feed off the instant gratification of having everything they do, well or half-hearted, accepted as amazing.
You can’t take away a person’s talent just because society has not acknowledged them. It’s not possible, because talent exists independent of society and is as subject as it is objective — what you might find beautiful and engaging may not hold value for someone else.
But society continues to assert it is the kingmaker, the gateway, of value.
It’s not. How many times have you heard a story of a person or idea that was rejected many times over before it was finally accepted? JK Rowling’s journey of 80 rejections before Harry Potter became a worldwide phenomenon comes to mind, but there are many more.
Your value is yours. Society can’t give you value and it can’t take it away. It feels like it can, but only if you give it power over you. In a world of instant gratification like follows, retweets, and likes, remember that true engagement is worth working towards.
If you’ve read gotten to this point, here’s a secret: society is not just local, national, international or web-based — it is your friendship circle, your job, your school, your family. Society is a community, and that circle can tighten or widen depending on your viewpoint.
Society is also not just a group of people — it’s a mentality. It is one that’s been ingrained within you since you were a kid. It can manifest in authority figures, your lover, your family, or even your own mindset.
It’s up to you whether or not you blindly follow society. You can also choose to turn a critical eye toward it. You can choose what you engage and what you don’t.
Society is a game, and you can choose whether it’s worth the price of admission to play.