Reunions, reminiscence & social proof

Posted by on Sep 29, 2008 in Uncategorized | One Comment


Another thought prompted by my weekend College reunion

Of course, each of us uses anniversaries or regular reunions to get some sense of how we're doing – "oh, I can't believe I was with that girl, I'm much happier now" is a common internal narrative.

But what's really interesting is how readily and how thoroughly folk check themselves vs. other people:

Who still looks the same? Who's aged badly? Who's got a portrait in the attic? Who's still a c***?

Who's doing better or worse professionally compared to me? Or has a prettier wife/husband/labrador?

And even:

Compared to how we stood back then, is our relative position the same or better/worse than it was all those years ago…? etc etc

I make that at least 3 dimensions of comparison

And no, it's not just me thinking this stuff….Social proof is really important to our species – much more so than you or I would normally allow. It's how we tell all sorts of things about ourselves and the world and the relationship between the two. It's only human

1 Comment

  1. Mark Hadfield
    September 29, 2008

    Hi mate – how are you? Long time no see.
    Very true. Social proof and context are where it’s at. I watched Die Welle (based on this and it touches on a similar thing.
    Social proof is contextual to how a society develops and what that society believes in at a particular time. Where anything has a positive or negative (‘Who is better or worse professionally’) then there needs to be understanding of exactly what better or worse is. And this needs to be agreed by the society. The film indicates very well how it was possible for millions of people to stand by and watch fascism and the holocaust take place. For a lot of people it was simply ‘normal’ because it was contextual. Like us being born into capitalism and globalisation – it’s normal to us, yet it’s only one political ideology. Who’s to say that in years to come society won’t be sat around asking “Why did they sit there and do nothing when their political ideology was killing thousands of people…”
    Rant over! The film was very good – definitely recommend it.