The seductive scapegoat (@andersorsander)

goat

In Esther 3 the idea of the scapegoat from Leviticus 16 appears again. This time it’s Mordecai’s refusal to honour Haman that makes not only Mordecai himself but the whole Jewish people targeted as scapegoats, to be destroyed. “Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them.” says Haman. (Esther 3:8).

But the scapegoat is not always as straightforward as the suggestion in the next verse here Haman offers to destroy the Jews. The scapegoat can be deceiving and seductive, earning great appreciation. I will show an example of the seductive scapegoat found in a recent viral video on youtube.

Tens of millions have watched “Look Up”. Hundreds of thousands like it. Thousands have commented, agreeing with the notion to log off and live “IRL”.

The video, although skilfully put together, has very little to do with “real life” but secudes the viewer with an idealised world, blaming the problems (mainly loneliness) on social media–a scapegoat that really has nothing to do with the solution of the problems. (I will also point out the merits of this video)

Why “Look up” is captivating

What is it that captivates so many to like this video, apart from being beautifully made and a great presentation? It idealises offline life, as if loneliness doesn’t exist in the offline world, because you have a partner, family and friends with whom you share all of your wonderful moments. This is of course not reality.

“Look up” splits the world into “the happy people who realised offline is what matters and left the internet behind” and “the unhappy people who only believe they are happy because of social media”. It simplifies a complex world into something tangible. It’s a powerful simplicity.

However, it fails to accuarately describe reality. For instance “the happy offline group” share a great day at the white cliffs of Dover. Next “the unhappy (and lonely) online person” visits alone and shares the moment online.

In reality a group of people at the white cliffs of Dover would have their mobile phones, sharing the moment with their friends present as well as online.

Polarizing through minorities

Yes, there are people actively choosing not to use social media or the internet, but this is a minority. Another minority are people caught in Internet addiction. Those two minorities are the only ones described in the video.

The vast majority, enjoying a life shared with friends and family both online and offline, is left out altogether. The unspoken question in “Look up” is: are you a lonely social media geek or a happy offline person with a “real” life? No other option is given even if most of us are neither of the two.

The temptation of idealism

Idealism connects with something we deeply wish for. “Things would be so great if it just wasn’t for…” We’ve probably all felt that at some point, and it’s tempting to lose ourselves in the ideal dream of “how it should or could be, if only…”

This is very deceiving because we get hooked on the ideal image, fulfilling our wish for a way out of loneliness, our wish to be loved. We are buttered up to accept the presented scapegoat: internet and social media.

The danger of scapegoats

In fact–and this might be provocative–this is the very method many populistic political parties are using to further their agenda. But their scapegoats tend to be people of a certain ethnicity, religion, political view or origin.

We have to be careful so we don’t lose ourselves in this idealistic world that fit our wishes, but not reality. We have to be careful accepting a scapegoat that actually has nothing to do with the issues at hand.

Internet or no internet we have a lot of lonely people (where many meet a parter and put an end to loneliness thanks to the internet). Logging off doesn’t solve loneliness in the world as suggested in “Look up”. Offline isn’t all that perfect. We can still have that wonderful day at the white cliffs of Dover ruined by showers and a biting cold wind, rather than the pleasant, ideal weather in the video.

“What is real?”

I also have a big problem with the notion that offline is “IRL” while online is… what? Not “real”? Of course it is. I meet some of my friends quite often offline, some I meet mostly online. But the main space for nurturing a friendship: face to face, phone, voice/video call, letter, email or social media, does not in any way affect the level of “reality” of the friendship.

“Look up” fails to acknowledge that real relationships and friendship form and develop both online and offline. Thus it loses a great deal of relevance as an observation of the issues and possible solutions to loneliness. It also fails to describe the pros and cons
with social media in any meaningful way.

Don’t waste your time

Does “Look up” have any merits? There is one, and it’s important: Don’t waste your time. But in reality–unlike the video–time can be wasted both online or offline. So make good use of your time don’t spend any more time reading this rant. Go and do some good, or post your thoughts in a comment.

About andersorsander

Information Officer. Christian. Church & Social media. Living a Swedish-Filipino life.