The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'ostracism'
Scientists have found the brain centre connected to social rejection. when a person suffers some form of social exclusion (is excluded from a group, ostracised by the cool kids at school, divorced, rejected by a date, &c), their anterior cingulate cortex is stimulated; this is the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain.
This suggests that the need to be accepted as part of a social group is as important to humans as avoiding other types of pain, she said. Just as an infant may learn to avoid fire by first being burned, humans may learn to stick together because rejection causes distress in the pain center of the brain, said Eisenberger.
I wonder whether the pain of social exclusion is not related to withdrawal symptoms from substances such as nicotine or heroin; that is, whether or not social interaction triggers neurochemicals that are addictive. People have been addicted to all sorts of activities, from risk-taking to sex; could it be that we're all social-interaction junkies from birth?
Another question this raises is that of substitutes for social inclusion that keep the same happy chemicals flowing without needing to actually have a social life; for example, internet chat rooms, multi-user roleplaying games (in which people have experienced serious attachment to virtual characters), even long-distance "romances", could be a way of "masturbating" the social-inclusion parts of the brain without the need for real social interaction. Perhaps that's one of the end goals of AI: to produce software that can pass the Turing test and provide simulated social interaction for instant-gratification-dependent cube-hermits without enough time in their high-speed, information-overloaded lives to develop real relationships with other people.
Gibson's Law meets the Jon Katz Hellmouth, as school bullies adopt new technologies, from SMS harrassment to "Nigelling" (i.e., ostracising their victims from online chatrooms). (Though is "Nigelling" really so unusual? The less-than-popular kids have always been left out of the quarterbacks'/prom-queens' reindeer games for as long as children have been herded into the social pressure-cookers known as schools. And in this day of the Internet, the misfits would be likely to find their own cliques, even if they consist of a cluster of pseudonymous DeadJournals scattered across the world.
Read: Why nerds are unpopular, an interesting essay which starts by asking the question of why intelligent kids are so unpopular in schools, and going from that to the malaise of living in a world detached from any real meaning:
And the active persecution is, if anything, the less painful half of the popularity equation. As well as gaining points by distancing oneself from unpopular kids, one loses points by being close to them. A woman I know says that in high school she liked nerds, but was afraid to be seen talking to them because the other girls would make fun of her. Unpopularity is a communicable disease; kids too nice to pick on nerds will still ostracize them in self-defense.
The author posits that the culture of sadism and cruelty is an emergent property of human nature in an unnatural environment (both schools and the wastelands of suburbia), and that in a world without meaning or purpose, kids find their own meaning in popularity and create their own arbitrarily vicious society. (I.e., the Lord of the Flies Effect.)
I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.
If I could go back and give my thirteen year old self some advice, the main thing I'd tell him would be to stick his head up and look around. I didn't really grasp it at the time, but the whole world we lived in was as fake as a twinkie. Not just school, but the entire town. Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.
As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don't think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they're made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.