Emotional labor and social circle echo chambers
This post explores how meaning is negotiated and created. To do so, it examines a meme and includes at least one alternative interpretation. It also reflects on the cognitive bias that can affect how we generate and disseminate meaning in our own social networks.
This meme is taken from the Bored Panda online magazine. It includes a common comment often made by men that women should be smiling all the time. The meme is a reaction to that comment, stating that girls should not be faking smiles in order to seem approachable and friendly, which is often expected of them, if they are not feeling outgoing.
What interested me in this meme is that it addresses emotional labor, which is a social issue that refers to the process of managing your feelings in order to perform better at a job which requires social interactions. However, in recent years this concept of being forced to fake a smile even if you are having a terrible day has been applicable to other social interactions, outside your workplace.
Here is the link to the article that provides a broader explanation to this problem.
This is a feminist issue, since women are those who are most often required to act as if they are gregarious, to express friendliness and look delighted. Besides the fact that emotional labor is a social issue, as it originates from worker’s performance at their service-based job, and it also affects women more than men, it is a psychological issue as well. This concept forces people to suppress their feelings and handle them in an unhealthy manner, which is quite damaging to their mental health.
What is the message?
The message of this meme is women’s resistance to the constant requirement to act happy even when they are clearly not. The women in the picture is saying what all women think but rarely say, and what should be something that everybody is aware of, but isn’t.
What ‘goes without saying’?
The fact that men are always making those remarks, but also that women are always irritated by that question.
How can its symbolic content be interpreted in a different way, through a different lens?
The other possible way for this meme to be interpreted is that the question that is written above the picture is actually a well-meaning comment, that is given out of sincere concern for a girl’s feelings, but that the reaction they get is rude, unpleasant or cheeky.
Reflecting on cognitive bias exercise
While reading about biases in the the article called ‘Biases Make People Vulnerable to Misinformation Spread by Social Media’. what attracted by attention the most was the concept of bias in society. It refers to the way bias that exists among a certain friend group starts to influence on the way they interpret various information they receive. This is especially accurate when it comes to social media, since the majority of our friends or followers are from the same social circles we belong to, and since social media has become our major news source, those two factors became inseparable. I find this to be specially true. I tend to follow people who are on some level similar to me, and it sometimes shocks me when I come across accounts of those who are the polar opposite. When I read what they have been posting, I always believe they are wrong. This is the clear example of the ‘us and them’ distinction mentioned in the article. The ‘echo chambers’ social networks create might be one of the biggest ways news receiving today differs from news receiving years ago, as it changes not only what kind of information we have access to, but how it is framed and served to us.