The Happiness of Lies.
We want transparency—not to be honest—but to be sheltered.
“I’m trying to make the world a more open place.” Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg talks a lot about transparency, especially for someone who isn’t transparent. The bravest thing he ever said was “We find a dying squirrel on our lawn more relevant than dying people in Africa.”
But who’s made us that way? Isn’t it exactly what Zuckerberg has created with Facebook?
This “transparency” Zuckerberg talks about is a bit of an illusion. We share our love of family, friends, household pets, etc. Things are great as long as we say they’re great. Don’t bother looking further. You don’t need to know that we’re over-extended on our beautiful houses or that our neighbour hasn’t talked to us in 12 years. It’s what we want to show that matters, and what we want to show is happy.
When we tell someone they look great, isn’t it quid pro quo? Aren’t we expecting the same in return?
Not that we can’t have moments of occasional angst and outrage. We don’t mind speaking out against people like, say, Donald Trump. Everyone knows he’s ridiculous. But, as Michael Moore stated not long ago, “That’s probably what got him elected. Giving everyone the finger makes him relevant.”
Is it possible Trump is more honest than we are? What are we doing except complimenting others and ourselves at the same time? When we tell someone they look great, isn’t it quid pro quo? Aren’t we expecting the same in return?
We want transparency — not to be honest — but to be sheltered. Good times make us secure. It’s Beach Blanket Bingo played out in daily posts and blogs. Sure, we want equality and compassion. We want what everyone wants. Together we show a consensus of mutual concern, carried across social media, waiting to be agreed upon and therefore accepted as fact.
Is that happiness? Is that all social media is good for?
The other night, I watched a special on Norman Lear. When asked what made All In the Family relevant at the time, Lear said “Archie Bunker reflected more of society than we realized. As much as the censors at the network said, ‘You can’t have him saying that,’ we came back with ‘People are saying that. You seriously think Archie Bunker is expressing anything new?’”
Maybe Donald Trump is our Archie Bunker, a man who gains a shadowy respect by expressing views we don’t want to express openly ourselves.
All In The Family shocked audiences in ways audiences had never been shocked before. Archie Bunker was transparent. Outside, we were shaking our heads, inside we were nodding. We were embarrassed — not for Archie Bunker — but for ourselves. Lear held up a mirror and we couldn’t help looking. Eight seasons later, we were still looking.
Maybe Donald Trump is our Archie Bunker, a man who gains shadowy respect by expressing views we don’t want to express ourselves—not openly, anyway.
Sure, we have comments, we have anger, we have dismay. On some level, it shows the unrest that exists today. Is this commentary enough to move people to act, to express their concerns beyond the computer and keyboard?
Thousands — if not millions — take to their computers each day, expressing outrage or support through the “comments” or “like” buttons.
After the episode of Maude, where she decides to have an abortion, the network received 17,000 letters. Some called the show “brave” while others described death threats in graphic terms. There were protests, people taking to the streets, even evangelists wanting to put Lear in jail.
Social media has shown it can vilify or justify, too. Thousands — if not millions — take to their computers each day, expressing outrage or support through the “comments” or “like” buttons.
Zuckerberg can talk all he wants about transparency, but if it goes no further than “likes” or “comments,” we’ll never see anything like the change Norman Lear—and Archie Bunker—brought about.
We can move on to something that makes us happy.
Our transparency has its own comfort level. We can be outraged, we can “comment,” we can “like.” But what makes us happy is knowing we can scroll away from it, too.
We can click. we can go to our happy place.
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details (you can also order the books from them).