Recently while watching an interview on the breakfast club a fundamental issue stood out. Charlotte Rapper Dababy was asked to address the constant demand on social media to switch up his flow. He confidently explained that he had no need to switch up a flow which was gaining him much success. The rapper also highlighted the psychology of his detractors, saying he understood that because he was doing so well they had to have something to talk about. This highlights a fundamental issue facing urban culture. The issue of envy and admiration coexisting simultaneously within a consumer based generation.
Envy is a powerful emotion that “arises when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it” (Parrott and Smith 1993 p. 906). It’s a frustrating emotion that comes from upward social comparison. It can be distinguish into two categories
- Benign envy (aimed at improving one’s own situation)
- Malicious envy (aimed at pulling down the superior other).
The more a situation is appraised as undeserved, the more participants experienced malicious envy aimed at pulling a person down. This raises the issue of entitlement within the generation. The question remains as to why participants feel entitled to control or determine what someone else has. Deserved or not, participants have no right to try and control or pull down another’s situation.
Higher order human emotions such as compassion and admiration are often cataloged as artefacts of culture. However a small new study that relied on scans of the brain suggests the opposite: these feelings are rooted deep within the brain, where basic traits like anger and fear reside.
Admiration is the emotional response to non-moral excellence (Algoe and Haidt 2009). Although both benign envy and admiration are felt when people are confronted with a superior other, there is a strong indication that they are different experiences (Van de Ven et al. 2009) First, benign envy feels frustrating, while admiration is a pleasant feeling.
The difference fundamentally being the agency of self. If a person is closely relatable a self comparison is more likely to be made which could elicit malicious envy. If the self is not involved admiration is more likely and the person does not feel the need to control the situation or pull down the superior. Benign type of envy is more akin to admiration than to malicious envy.
The psychological impact of youtube and social media’s ‘like/dislike button’ is having a damaging influence on today’s generation. It creates a false sense of value and positions people towards envy. It’s damaging peoples self esteem and forces them into comparisons. Needless to say the primary purpose of most content on youtube/social media is purposed for pleasure and entertainment not social comparisons.
Written By Kwasi Addo