The Insignificance of the ‘Loser’ Label in Atomized Societies
One of the favorite recreational activities of human beings seems to involve labeling other people as ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ according to some external standards. While I have many theories about why people indulge in this particular zero-sum behavior and what it says about the human ‘mind’- those issues are best discussed in another post. In this one, I will look at another aspect of the ‘loser’ label.
Does the ‘loser’ label carry any weight or significance in mobile, highly atomized and technological societies- especially ones with a visibly crumbling social contract?
So let us first briefly talk about why people like to label some others as ‘losers’. The funny thing about such labels is that they have nothing to do with any objective reality. The reasons behind such labels have far more to do with attempts to dominate and destroy the lives of others. The next logical question is- does such labeling work? The answer is context sensitive and requires us to first consider the nature and technological level of the society as well as its degree of functionality. Societies that are tribal, inward looking and in which individuals have low geographical mobility are ideal settings for the ‘loser’ label. In such societies, there is a strong incentive to avoid the ‘loser’ label- even if the society is falling apart.
Now lets us turn our attention to societies with an industrial-revolution level of technology, decent but not great geographical mobility and some level of comprehension that their “reality” is not the only game in town. In such societies, the ‘loser’ label is significantly less effective at hurting a person as they can always move around and reinvent themselves or go to cities with a pre-existing population of similar minded people. As we move further up that road into societies as they exist in many, if not all, developed countries today- something even more peculiar occurs. The ‘loser’ label becomes close to worthless and may end up hurting the labeller than the labeled. But why? How does a strategy that was effective for tens of thousands of years suddenly become worthless? The answer lies in the changing nature of social interactions between an individual and the rest of society.
For most of human history- people lived, worked and interacted with others they had known for years or decades. They really did not have any other option. That is why things like reputation and perception by others around them mattered. This pattern of dependence on those in your physical vicinity and low geographical mobility started changing as the industrial revolution progressed. However most of your interactions were still with people in your immediate vicinity albeit in a place more to your liking.
A series of social changes within the last 30 years which created very high levels of social atomization and the spread of ubiquitous internet access have pushed things to another level.
Today trusting those who in previous eras could be expected to help you is a bad idea. The vast majority of people rightly don’t trust their parents, children, relatives, friends, employers, various social institutions and society itself to do anything close to the ‘right’ thing. Consequently, people prefer to spend a lot of time by themselves. It simply isn’t worth associating with people who are worse than useless in ‘real’ life. We also spend a lot of time online and can easily find people and communities of like-minded individuals who are far more entertaining to interact with- if still largely useless. But even that is changing and it now appears that online and often anonymous acquaintances are often more useful than those in your physical vicinity.
This ubiquitous communication-based mobility destroys the need for most personal interaction to a level that most people still cannot fathom. Today you can lead an OK life with very minimal inter-personal interactions. Apart from a few fake interactions for work-related purposes, getting some pussy and pretending to be “normal” etc- you can pretty much give up on ‘real’ life relationships without any adverse effects on your life. Indeed, the converse is true as it is no longer necessary to spend your waking hours thinking about what those useless morons around you are thinking, or not thinking. The best part is that you can often do that without having to move to your dream city or neighborhood.
It is now very easy to unplug from a dysfunctional society without any significant negative consequences.
The power of the ‘loser’ label was always directly proportional to how much you needed, or had to interact with, the people around you. A combination of social trends and technological possibilities have reduced the necessity to put oneself in that position. It follows that people will increasingly shun ‘real’ life interactions with useless morons in dysfunctional and deteriorating societies.
What do you think? Comments?