Friday, September 4, 2020

All Aboard

So I was watching this video on YouTube, posted by Wired, about this young woman who does indoor skydiving, and competes at it. I had not realized the remarkable things that people can do in wind tunnels. Then I made the mistake of reading the comments. While many of them were positive, there were quite a number of them slamming Wired for showcasing a young, attractive, White woman, many of them dismissing her because her family was "obviously" quite wealthy. (This, it seems, was based on the fact that indoor skydiving is fairly expensive.)

It struck me as an illustration of how perceived inequality erodes social trust, and how that erosion can quickly become self-sustaining. Nothing was said in the video about the young woman's finances, those of her family or how she funds her training and competitions. So people simply assumed a certain level of wealth, and proceeded to publicly (although mostly anonymously) look down on her for being born into it.

Signalling like this is a form of status seeking. It's a way that people seek approval from others whose esteem they value. And reading some of the comments on this YouTube video reminded me of the fact that being disdainful of others, if a way of seeking approval, and thus, status. And then, like any echo chamber, there forms a race to demonstrate to everyone else one's worthiness of approval by being the most trident. And so you wind up with a bunch of people taking pot-shots at a fourteen-year-old for having the temerity to be featured on YouTube for being good at something unusual.

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