Chivalry is making a comeback, with those you least expect.
This morning I took my three year old son Jenson on the bus, taking him to school and me to work. Like any other day during peak hour, the bus was packed and seats are rare. But the proactive Singapore government and the Land Transport Authority has invested heavily in developing the social morals of society in Singapore through values andCourtesy campaigns. So it was logical for me to expect a ‘do gooding’ citizen to make a seat available for the challenging peak hour ride with a three year old. But what I witnessed is something that has become an alarming trend, something that digital natives are working to avoid.
Sitting in the priority seat for disabled, pregnant and parental passengers was a businessman approximately in his late forties. He saw me struggle onto the bus, but pretended not to see me and returned to the sports pages of his newspaper. Where’s the chivalry gone? In a social era, I felt the urge to Instagram a photo, capturing and sharing his act of defiance. The disappointing part is this guy is not the first I’ve witnessed, nor will he be the last. Chivalry appears to be a lost value. Only a week ago, I witnessed first hand a husband refuse to help is own pregnant wife on the bus. What the hell is the world coming to? Have you ever noticed something similar yourself? No doubt many of us witness this first hand on a regular basis.
Has society’s morals declined to ignore chivalry, morals and values? Or are we all so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we’ve forgotten those around us?
The new chivalry
On the positive side, I have witnessed something worth sharing. As our society has become more digital, our mastery of technology has grown dramatically. To the point that digital natives live their hierarchy of needs (Maslow) through technology. As digital has become a native language for them, they express themselves, creating belongingness, mobilise resources, exercise morality and collectively build creativity and problem solving abilities. This mesh of new behaviours and culture is something I often talk about through the character Isaac, a fictitious digital native that helps an audience understand the world digital natives grow up in. Digital Natives grow up in a very different world to their elders, most notably that they natively master technology, and have moved on to humane expression through technology. Maslow would be pleased.
Digital Natives are inherently aware no moment is safe from new social norms enabled by smartphones and social media. Talking with today’s ‘youth’, often labelled Millennials or Gen Y, they are conscious that a moment of careless behaviour can and will be shared. Creating a constant active awareness of themselves as responsible members of society. Granted they still manage to do some pretty stupid stuff. But the clear trend is the abundance of stupid behaviour on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter has developed a new sense of collective social compass, in alignment with Maslow’s Hierarchy. You just don’t want to be that guy on Youtube with his pants around his ankles, or in the case of this article, the guy that gets photographed in a priority seat next to a pregnant women.
For this very reason, SnapChat exists. It’s the digital natives response to the permanent record of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. The best way to avoid the public embarrassment is to have a platform that society trusts won’t share your most private moments. Digital Natives mastery of the new cultural norm makes them more consciously moral citizens, meaning moments of chivalry come naturally to them. While I have no evidence, it’s likely that digital natives would be unlikely to remain in that seat when a parent boards the bus with a three year old. The potential consequence of social media and their desire to fulfil Maslow hierarchy of needs entrenches chivalry, morals and collaboration.
Lessons from celebrities
Throughout time, the idea of the celebrity has been a strong ideology in popular culture. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word celebrity means someone who is famous, and is renowned for their various talents. For the most part (disregarding “Big Brother” celebrities, people famous for a name’s sake; Paris Hilton for example and the ever popular WAG culture in the UK), the celebrity is still someone renowned for their talents, and your huge stars are those who excel in acting, music or sports for example.
However, with the popularity of celebrities, the tabloid press’s obsession with catching celebrities out and today’s audience’s having a slightly sadistic, voyeuristic tendency to take pleasure in other people’s car crash lives (reality talk shows, Big Brother and our pleasure in seeing people of status fall hard to earth being just a couple of examples), this renown and celebrity status can be a burden on celebrities dealing with certain ailments in their lives.
Celebrities have had to live with this pressure for decades, as Paparazzi follow their every moment in the hope of catching a wardrobe malfunction, unflattering photo or stupid behaviour. Living under such constant pressure often driving public figures to withdraw from the public eye in an attempt to avoid the cameras. What’s the five celebrity stories that stand out in your mind? Princess Diana’s toe sucking? Michael Jackson’s baby over the balcony? Maybe a drunk and jailed Justin Bieber?
But did all this public expose develop the social conscious of those in the public eye? And what has society as a whole learnt from the mistakes of those constantly under the spotlight? As we ourselves are now more in the spotlight than ever before.
Digital Natives and the new social construct
This development of culture has seen its ups and downs over the past decade, but nothing highlights the advancement like the thousands of stories that go viral on social media illustrating cases of immoral, rude or obnoxious behaviour. In Singapore, who could forget the case of Anton Casey, who embarrassed himself and his family after sharing some degrading comments aimed at those that use Singapore’s public transport. Anton and his family were very publicly exposed, and judged by the collective.
Or Justine Sacco, formerly a PR executive for the Internet giant InterActive Corp., which owns popular websites like Match.com, Dictionary.com, and Vimeo, was fired over a tweet that came from her account on Friday that read: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
What is clear is society is only just learning to adapt to the idea of a constant eye watching over us, as we accept that the vast majority of people are carrying a camera equipped smartphone, and they are prepared to capture and share moments of interest. Digital natives carry a more conscious approach to Maslow, as they are also more likely the ones to capture the moment. Either way, living in a world of constant and abundant means to capture random moments, society appears to be developing a strong moral compass lead by the digital natives who have mastered digital to fulfil the Maslow vision for self-actualisation.
I can only hope this pattern continues as digital culture evolves and adapts, creating a collective social conscious. Creating the return of chivalry, morals and collective values.